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16 March 2016

Transcript: Defensive End Robert Ayers Jr. Free Agency Media Availability (3/16/16)

(Opening Statement)
“Thanks for having me and I’m happy to be a Buccaneer.”
(On Simeon Rice being the last Buccaneers with at least 10.0 sacks)
“Yeah, I knew that. Someone else was talking to me – my agent, or maybe Coach Koetter was telling me that. Somebody was just telling me that. That’s big.”
(On if Ayers can reach 10.0 sacks)
“You know, I can’t make predictions like that. I definitely feel confidence in myself that I can do that. I feel like I’m a player that is on the rise and I feel like I’m improving. I feel like I’m getting better, I’m learning the game, I’m understanding things better. I’m constantly trying to improve, constantly trying to learn and I think playing with Gerald McCoy will definitely free me up to be able to do a lot of those things. There’s a lot of talent on that defense and I’m looking forward to it. I have to correct you on one thing. In my mind, I had 10 sacks last year [laughs]. They took a half away and gave me 9.5. I’m just joking, but I definitely feel that I’m capable of that. I can’t say what I will do, I just know I believe in myself and I believe in the guys around me and I believe in the staff.”
(On which sack he ended up having to share)
“One against Minnesota. I beat the guard and came through, I jumped on him (the quarterback) and was pulling him down and one of my teammates, George Selvie, came and jumped on him later. They gave me a half, which I kind of argued it like, ‘It should have been a full’, but maybe if George didn’t jump on him, maybe he would’ve thrown the ball away, so I understood that argument - but you know, I’ll take a half.”
(On what has caused his increase in sacks as his career has progressed)
“I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. I know personally, when I first came into the league, honestly, I wasn’t as mature as I needed to be.  I was in a situation where I was asked to do things that I wasn’t comfortable with scheme-wise and a lot of things. I faced a lot of challenges and mentally I wasn’t able to deal with it. Quite frankly, I wasn’t mature enough. I bounced around, had a lot of different positions, a lot of different roles and four different defensive coordinators in my first five years and like I said, I wasn’t mature enough. I didn’t understand the game, I wasn’t learning as fast, but over time I just learned and I keep getting better. When I came to the Giants I came here hoping that Coach [Robert] Nunn was going to give me an opportunity to do what I believe I did best and that’s what I was able to do. I think two years ago I had 5.5 or 6 or whatever. I think my last year in Denver, Coach Del Rio put me in better situations to succeed and I think I had 6.5 half sacks including the playoffs and I wasn’t even a starter. I was behind Von Miller and I had 6.5. Last year I started and had 9.5 in 12 games, so I really do feel like I am an improved player and with opportunity and chance and me learning and me maturing, I think I continue to do good and continue to get better. Like I said, it’s a combination of a lot of things. Me not being mature enough to handle the situation, me learning, me being put in better situations to succeed and me understanding who I am and what I do and building on those things. It’s a lot of things. I don’t think it’s just one thing, if that answers your question.”
(On who of the recently signed free-agent defensive lineman Ayers thinks will finish the season with the most sacks)
“I mean I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought it was going to be me. That’s the way I approach the game and that’s the way I feel about myself. I feel like I can compete with anyone. Every year I go into it wanting to win. I go into the season wanting to be the best player. I go into it wanting to be the best Robert Ayers and that’s never going to change. I’m a competitor, I want to win and I want to be a dominant player. Nothing against those guys and their track record and what they have done and what they have accomplished, I just fully believe in myself and I fully believe in the ability I’ve been given and I fully believe in this staff. I fully believe in the guys I’ll be playing with and I think the opportunities will be there and it’s just going to be up to me to maximize my opportunities and get better and learn and stay healthy and compete like that. I fully believe in myself my staff and my teammates. I can be that guy.”
(On if Ayers expects to play both inside and outside with Tampa Bay)
“I do. I do think that’s something that they saw that I did extremely well. I referenced to it earlier, that was something I wasn’t allowed to do earlier in my career and if you go back to my times at Tennessee, whether it be the Senior Bowl or in college, that was something that I did. When I got to the league I wasn’t always given the opportunity. Credit to Coach Coughlin, Coach Robert Nunn and Coach ‘Spags’ [Steve Spagnuolo] and those guys. They knew that’s what I did and they gave me the opportunity, where I wasn’t given the opportunity earlier in my career. I definitely think I’m in the situation where they’re going to try to utilize me the way that Coach ‘Spags’ did and Coach Robert Nunn did. I think they’re going to put me in situations to get the best out of me. I don’t think they would have brought me here if that wasn’t the case and I’m looking forward to it.”
(On whether Ayers sees himself playing primarily on the right or the left side of the defensive line)
“Whatever they ask me to do. Like I said, I had four D-coordinators in five years and I played a bunch of different positions, so I’ve kind of learned to play a lot of different roles. Whatever they ask me to do, I’m willing to do. Whether it be right, left, inside, whatever. Drop into coverage, rush, whatever. That’s what I feel like I can bring to this team. If that’s what they ask me to do, then that’s what I’m going to do.”
(On what attracted Ayers to Tampa Bay)
“For me it was all about opportunity, all about scheme fit. The money – everybody wants to get paid. I’d be lying if I said the money didn’t matter but for me, I want to be a great player and I understand that being in this league you have to be in the right system. You can take more money and go somewhere where you’re going to be asked to do things that you’re not good at but for me I wanted to be in a situation with a staff that understand what they’re getting and they’re going to utilize me the way that they saw me being successful my last few years and I think they’re going to do that. They’re going to utilize me and allow me to do the things that I do well. Of course the opportunity to play with Gerald McCoy, a guy that I’ve studied a lot and watched a lot and who’s a tremendous player, one of the best players in the league. Then they’ve got Lavonte David and the young rookie middle linebacker. They’ve got DBs now and Jameis Winston. To be honest with you, in this league you can’t win without a quarterback and with him I see a guy that can make that Cam Newton-type of rise and can be a star in this league. Doug Martin and they’ve made some big moves, they have receivers. I’m not just saying this now because I’m a Buc, but the last two years I always though the Bucs were going to be a contender and I think they’re right there and there’s a few more pieces, a great coach and you put all the things together and I think we can be that. I think it was two years ago they lost like eight games by less than 10 points or seven points or something like that. I think they’re right there. I think we can win and I think we have a great staff and a great core of players and I’m excited to be a part of it.”   
(On what it feels like to record a sack)
“It feels great, because you know the preparation that goes into it. You study the guy all week. You watch him, you try to pick up on his tendencies. You watch the cadence, you watch the snap count, and then, when you do all that studying, you get in the game and a lot of things have to happen, right? So many times you can beat your guy in a half a second, and the ball is out. Or you can beat your guy and you get to the quarterback and he has the ball, but he makes you miss. So to put in the work throughout the week and then to go out there and have everything work right for you to make that play, it’s huge. To me, that’s what I pride myself in – that and stopping the run – so to accomplish those things is kind of a great feeling because everything you did throughout the week has come together on that one play.”
(On what ‘lit a fire’ under him in the final month-and-a-half of the 2015 season)
“I don’t think anything lit a fire. If you look at my first two games [of the season] I played, as far as against Dallas, I had a good game. I had four or five QB hits, I was getting on Romo and I was going against one of the better offensive lines with Doug Free, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin and those guys, I had a good game against them. The next week, I had a sack against Atlanta and that was the week that I hurt my hamstring. So I think I came out of the gate pretty good, I just had the hamstring injury. Then I came back and I just had to get my feet back under myself and I think I picked up where I left off, to be honest. I don’t think a fire was lit, I just think I got healthy and I picked up where I left off and that’s how I feel about it. Like I said, against Dallas I had a good game, against Atlanta I had a sack and had a good game. Then I got hurt and just came back and had to get my feet up under me. I definitely have to give credit to my d-line coach (Robert Nunn). He did a great job of putting me in situations to be succeed. Robert Nunn, I could never praise him enough for what he’s done for my career and how he’s helped me and the way he taught me and let me learn. I had some great teammates in Cullen Jenkins – I took to him kind of like a mentor in the way he approached the game and the way he plays – and JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul] and the young guys, Tre [Damontre Moore], we all had a role last year and those guys played their role and I played mine. When you look at the stat sheet, I was probably the beneficiary of a lot of things that I have to give credit to a lot of people. It was just a good team effort.”
(On studying McCoy)
“I am a fan – I’m a fan of all great players and guys who do things the right way and play with a certain amount of passion. So I am a fan from that standpoint, but in just studying guys, me seeing him and how he approached the game and how he plays and how he fits a move whether it be hand placement, his hand accuracy, his footwork, his counters, the way he mixes up power, speed, inside moves, outside moves, the way he tilts – a lot different things he does that I try to pick up on and learn. Of course, I’m not 300-and-whatever pounds like he is and I do have my own skillset that I think I bring to the table, but definitely just studying him and seeing how he plays and the things that he does. I’m always asking myself, ‘What made him do that? What made him do that?’ Now I’ll be able to be in the meeting room and really ask him, ‘What were you looking at? What did you see? What made you do this move, what were you anticipating?’ Different things like that. So I’m excited about learning from him and hopefully I can help him with a few things and the other guys in the room. We should all help each other.”
(On what stands out to him about Tampa Bay Defensive Coordinator Mike Smith)
“I’ve definitely met him. To me, for one, he has a great track record. He’s done it all. He’s won as a head coach, he’s been part of some winning teams and he’s familiar with a lot of guys that I’ve played for. He was with Coach Del Rio, who really was my first coach, in my fourth season, that was like, ‘Look, you’re out of position. You don’t need to be taking on double-teams from two 300-pounders at 270, 265 pounds. You don’t need to be doing those things.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I commend you for your effort, but that’s not what you do.’ So he was the first coach that was like, ‘Look, we are going to put you in a position to succeed.’ And that’s what he did. (Smith) is familiar with Coach Del Rio and so, the fact that he’s familiar with him, that sits high with me, because I know what type of character he is and I know what he stands for. I don’t believe he’s going to steer me wrong. Like I’ve said, he’s had a lot of success, he’s won a lot of games. From talking to him about the game, Xs and Os and stuff, I think he’ll put me in a position to succeed. To me, that’s the number one priority of what I want.”
(On if his references to being put in position to succeed have to do with a coach using his versatility)
“That’s part of it, but it’s just like if you look at Seattle. You look at Richard Sherman. He’s a great corner and he’s the best at what he does. Now, some people could say, ‘Oh, he doesn’t cover a No. 1 (receiver)’ or whatever, but what he does, he’s elite. He’s the best at what he does. So it takes a smart coach to be able to look at a guy and utilize him and put them in position to succeed. Some coaches try to take players and throw them in their scheme, but I think the great coaches, the Bill Belichicks – you look at what they do up in New England, they take what they have and they maximize what they have. They don’t try to say, ‘Look, this is the scheme and we’re going to make you do it.’ A great example was Coach (John) Fox up in Denver, when we went from Kyle Orton to Tim Tebow. Not many coaches would totally throw away their whole offense and say, ‘Look, this is what we need to do to win. We’re going to run the ball 60 times and maybe only throw it six. We’re going to play defense.’ It got us to the playoffs and we won a game. So, to me, Coach Smith is of that mold. He’s that type of coach. He’s going to try to put people in the best situations to succeed and try to maximize the ability of his players. As a player, that’s all you ask for. Just give me a chance to win. I’m going to put in the effort and hopefully we can get it done on Sundays. That’s what I meant, if that makes sense.”
(On being with the New York Giant’s during Jason Pierre-Paul’s return following his hand injury)
“It was huge. Not many people really know what he went through. I know to an extent because I was around him, but I’m not the type to dig and pry and ask questions of personal things, but I tip my hat to him, because a lot of people could have just hunkered up and be like, ‘This is bad, man.’ It can affect you mentally, but that dude’s a bull, man. He was a real bull and he fought through it. He’s going to do great things and I’m excited to see how he plays this year. When he came back, he definitely gave a lot of guys a spark. He brought a lot of energy and he has a ton of talent, so it’s definitely big to see him fighting through what he fought through and accomplishing and what he’s doing. He’s still getting better. It was huge for the morale of the team and it was huge to be around a guy like that.”
(On whether he thinks the adjusted half-sack cost him anything in free agency)
“I don’t think it cost me anything. To me it was a goal to get to a certain point, but 9.5 sacks in 12 games is pretty impressive and, in my opinion, if you really really studied my film, you’d see that I could have had a lot more. Like I said, it takes a lot to get those sacks, whether it was a quarterback getting rid of the ball, or me beating a guy and tripping and falling, or me getting to the quarterback and not being able to bring him down. I had two of those against Jacksonville. I get to the quarterback and – three years ago I did that and I just didn’t bring him down. So it takes a lot to go into that. I think if teams watched the film, they see what they are getting. I think the numbers can be misleading a lot of times. I think that’s the case. So I don’t think that half-sack cost me anything, because I think everybody did their due diligence and looked at what I presented and where I played. And, quite frankly, I think I beat a lot of guys, and I think they saw that.”

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