For years many have complained about Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy being too nice of a guy. From smiling after games, to helping opposing players off the turf, McCoy doesn’t try and hide who he is.
But last season the Bucs added McCoy’s polar opposite.
Defensive end Robert Ayers came over from the Giants and while he doesn’t quite have the surly personality of former great Warren Sapp, Ayers does bring an attitude and a nasty streak that his coaches and teammates love.
Last week at the podium PewterReport.com asked Ayers if the Bucs defense was lacking some of the characteristics he possesses.
Bucs DE Robert Ayers – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
“I didn’t think that,” Ayers said. “I think we’ve got a lot of tough guys. I wouldn’t necessarily say the attitude needs to change, but in my opinion, winning and losing is contagious. If you get used to losing, then it becomes the norm. If you get used to winning then you don’t accept anything else. I think we just needed to create an environment of winning, an environment of competing and challenging each other, pushing each other.
“That’s what I think I kind of brought to the table, because I’m not afraid to say anything to anybody, no matter the stature is or what their level of accomplishments are, or even a coach. I’m not afraid for you not to like me. I don’t really care about being liked. I don’t really care about opinions of me. I just want to win. So I think we kind of challenged each other and pushed each other to change things around here. I don’t think guys weren’t tough; I think we just weren’t used to winning those big games. We weren’t used to being at that center of attention. I think we just needed to challenge each other to step up when those situations come. We’re on prime time, we need to be able to ball out. That’s just me. Hopefully that answers your question.”
Ayers, who notched 29 tackles and 6.5 sacks in 2016, continued to talk about what drives him as a player.
“I don’t really look at it as me being a leader,” Ayers said. “I personally view myself as a guy that – I go hard and my goals are just high. I don’t believe in settling. The idea of another man being better than me at anything has always been something that I hate. The idea of another team thinking that they’re better than us is just something that I hate. I really hate to lose. So enough was enough. I wouldn’t give myself any credit for our turnaround. I don’t know, we just got it turned around, I guess. I just want to win, man, and that’s all it was about.”
Ayers talked about his team’s quarterback, Jameis Winston, who also has what players call “dawg” in him.
Cowboys QB Dak Prescott & Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
“That dude, he’s competitive, man,” Ayers said. “He wants to win. Ultimately, that’s all this game is about. It’s about winning. It’s not about having Instagram followers, it’s not about anything else but winning. He’s a young cat but his goals – he wants to win Super Bowls now. You respect that and you appreciate that. He leads his guys, pushes his guys and challenges his guys. He makes things competitive and he wants to be great. For him to be so young and for him to understand the pressure of being the face of the franchise is huge. I respect it, man. He’s kind of like me in a sense. I’m just a defensive end version of him. He’s out there trying to start fights and push people off piles in a game and stuff. He’s just competitive, and I love competitors.”
Ayers is a good guy off the field, a good quote in the locker room and teammates seem to love him. But as mentioned above, while not quite Sapp, Ayers does bring a bit of unpredictability, and respects players who play with the same edge he does. The Bucs are starting to assemble a cast of edgy players like Ayers (linebacker Kwon Alexander, guard J. R. Sweezy, defensive end Noah Spence and others) to mesh with the other types of personalities on the team.
While ultimately talent wins Super Bowls, general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter are also looking for that right mix inside the locker room that will go a long way in the franchise’s future. It appears they found a nice cornerstone in Ayers.