ORCHARD PARK, NY — Down 26-21 at the start of the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Buffalo Bills were trying to force the Miami Dolphins off the field as the snowfall got heavier.
On third-and-3 deep in Miami territory, nickel corner Taron Johnson almost came away with a pick-six, swinging his arms in frustration at the missed opportunity. Micah Hyde watched on the sideline — dressed in sweats like other inactive players — bouncing up and down and clapping a football in his hands like he had missed the play himself. The injured safety tapped Johnson in support as he came off the field.
Hyde has been out since Week 2. Huh had surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, to also help stabilize a neck issue he had been dealing with for many years.
“It’s something that scared me that I didn’t think it was possible,” Hyde said in October. “And then it happened. And, you know, here we are.”
Injured pass rusher Von Miller watched the Bills play the Dolphins from his home in Buffalo. Less than two weeks removed from ACL surgery on his right knee, Miller didn’t want to risk anything in snowy, slick conditions.
The Bills sit at 11-3 — a win away from a third straight AFC East title and three away from the top seed in the conference — while two of their best defensive players are on injured reserve. But off the field, Hyde’s and Miller’s impact has been important on multiple levels.
“[Hyde’s] been really good for us,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. “In the meetings, I’ve referenced him so many times with [safety] Damar [Hamlin]with Jaquan Johnson and trying to get those guys to go back and look at some of Micah’s tape and get a feel for how he operated.
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“His words of encouragement to those guys, his being at practice, his watching tape with them, all those things have to help them.”
Hamlin, a 2021 sixth-round pick, has taken over Hyde’s role alongside All-Pro safety Jordan Poyer. The Poyer-Hyde duo started 79 games together, by far the most of any safety pair over the past six seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hyde has been missed in a big way on the field, but he has been around the team every day after his initial recovery from surgery.
Throughout games, he comes onto the field to give encouragement and talks things over with teammates on the sideline. Poyer said they will sit next to each other in the meeting rooms, “So if I have a question, it’s, ‘Hey Micah, how do you see this?’”
“It’s been frustrating, but at the same time, you know, my role is a little bit different, so it’s been rewarding in a sense, too,” Hyde told ESPN. “Just to be able to see a lot of guys that I play a lot of ball with continue to ball, but also some young guys go out there, make a name for themselves. … I still have that same mindset of how to beat this team, but at the same time, not being on the field and having a coach’s perspective on each game has turned on some light bulbs in my mind.”
Hyde, 31, had missed just three regular-season games in his career prior to this season. Not having the grind of preparing to play every week has allowed him to see the bigger picture of what is happening on the field. He often wears a headset during games and stands near coaches or where the action is taking place. Frazier said the safety may have a future in coaching, although Hyde can’t envision coaching at the NFL or college level while his kids — both under 3 — are growing up.
“I’m not a coach and I’m a player, but I’m not able to play, so I’m able to coach. I love where I’m at right now, but obviously, that’s not like a career that you can do long-term,” Hyde said. “So, I’m just taking it day by day, and I enjoy the coaching aspect right now.”
Miller has been a mentor for the team’s young defensive ends since he signed, and that hasn’t changed since the future Hall of Famer ultimately had season-ending surgery. The only Super Bowl champion on the roster has made a significant impact on the group as a leader, which is part of the reason the Bills signed him.
“You got a guy like that — it doesn’t matter whether he is playing, watching or coaching, it doesn’t matter — just having his presence, having his positive energy, the way he carries himself, like the messages that he portrays to us,” defensive tackle Ed Oliver said. “And just having a guy like that around is infectious.”
Miller plans to do what he can to assist his teammates despite being out for the year.
“I’m not able to contribute physically on the field, but there’s so much other stuff that I can do off the football field, getting guys ready mentally,” Miller said. “Letting them know the perspective that you need to have deep into the season and deep into the playoffs. So, still the same Von, I’m just off the field.”
While Miller is out for several months, Hyde has been working to the side during many recent practices alongside players on injured reserve who have a chance to return this season. Hyde has said he is “coming for it in ’23,” also a reference to his number, but when he can return is largely up to the doctors.
“Haven’t ruled anything out,” general manager Brandon Beane said last week of Hyde returning this season. “But I think it’s still too far off to really know whether that’s a real possibility.”