MANDEVILLE, La. (AP) — Saints safety Jairus Byrd has rarely been so eager to hit and be hit, if only to reassure himself that his surgically repaired back is as healed as doctors believe.

Byrd, the top free agent acquisition by New Orleans this offseason, has been cleared for contact this week, allowing him to practice with no limitations for the first time since he signed a six-year, $56 million contract in March.

Byrd says he plans to play his first preseason game Saturday night in Indianapolis, and that he'll spend the next couple weeks working to get in synch with the secondary he'll be expected to help lead.

The Saints hope Byrd will help them produce more turnovers. The three-time Pro Bowl safety has 22 interceptions in his first five NFL seasons.

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