Some guys are sugar-coaters and others tell it like it is.

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers identifies with the latter personality type.

“We’re a little less terrible,” the offseason signee said this past week during minicamp when asked to elaborate on earlier critiques voiced since becoming a Buc. “But we’re getting better. That’s all we can ask for. We’re trying to get to the end of the tunnel. Each day is a day to get better, a day to prepare, a day for me and my guys to get to know each other better and grow as a unit and build a chemistry.”

Ayers’ openness got a few laughs and he further explained his stance, but he let it be known that offseason talk and speculation about how good the defense could be doesn’t mean much.

“The reason why I say we’re terrible is because we’re not where we want to be,” Ayers said. “For me it’s 100 percent or nothing and if you’re not 100 percent then you’re terrible. You’re either first or your last. Right now we’re not where we need to be so that’s terrible. I want to be where we need to be. I want to get to the end of the tunnel. I want to get to the big game. I want to win. That’s all I care about is winning, so until we win we’re terrible.”

It’s the type of attitude and honesty that may be needed for a defense that failed to play with consistency last year while surrendering 26.1 points per game. What the Bucs can use even more, however, is Ayers playing up to his three-year, $21-million contract and leading by example with his play on the field.

The former New York Giant and Denver Bronco is preparing for his eighth season and will turn 31 five days prior to Tampa Bay’s season opener in Atlanta. Ayers elevated his value last year by recording career-highs in sacks (9.5), tackles (41), passes defensed (four) and forced fumbles (two). The 6-foot-3, 275-pound edge rusher did that in only 12 games. That’s adds impressiveness but also raises red flags. It was the second straight season Ayers missed four games and he’s played a full 16-game schedule once in seven years.

Bucs DE Robert Ayers - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DE Robert Ayers – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Last year was a pretty good year for me but I look at what I could have done better,” Ayers said. “I think I could’ve prepared my body better because I missed four games. I had nine sacks in 12 games but I look at it like, ‘What could I have done if I didn’t get hurt?’ So for me I want to keep my body healthy, I want to improve that.”

In addition to focusing on his fitness and durability, Ayers is being challenged with learning a new system – something he should be used to at this point in his career.

“Not to make excuses for myself but this is my eighth year and I’ve had seven defensive coordinators,” he said. “So being able to do something consistently is important for a player to be able to perform at a high level. Sometimes you get these great players that can just do whatever in any scheme, but for me, I’ve struggled some. Now I think things are starting to be more definitive, I know how to approach the game, coaches know what I can do and hopefully I can continue to do it and continue to get better.”

As for his new teammates on the defensive line, Ayers said he’s looking forward to putting the pads on and showing the league what they can do as a unit.

“I feel like we can compete,” he said. “I’m not just saying this because I’m here now but from the outside looking in I always, ‘Tampa, man, they’re right there. Look at all those guys.’ We’ve got a Big 3 on offense, one of the best defensive tackles in the game in Gerald [McCoy], Clinton [McDonald] who’s been an underrated dog, Jacquies [Smith] who got hurt last year. People are talking about pass rush and that dude [Smith] was beasting until he got hurt. Noah [Spence] can play, Howard [Jones] is super-fast out there, Kourtney Brown, Akeem [Spence] – there’s some talent.

“We’ve just got to do what we need to do, bring the right mindset, and work and get better. And then I feel like we can play with anybody and we can kick anybody’s ass. That’s just my opinion.”

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9 COMMENTS

  1. “For me it’s 100 percent or nothing and if you’re not 100 percent then you’re terrible. You’re either first or your last…”
    LOVE IT!!!!!!

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  2. Read on other blog that Ayers had a fantastic season last year in respect to QB hurries and TFL. The only time I ever watch the Giants is when the Bucs play them, so haven’t seen it myself. But I’m getting to be very optimistic about our team.
    GO BUCS

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  3. Well we got hyped up over DE Johnson signing last year and what did we get……
    I’ll wait till the pads are on and a few preseason games before I get overly excited.
    If we stay healthy I feel we can be much better on defense but will wait and see with mild enthusiasum.

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  4. At 31, he is a short term answer at the position only has few good yrs left 4 if were lucky.

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  5. I agree jongruden but there is no reason he still doesn’t have a little gas left in the tank.
    Look at Dwight Feeney and how well he hs played the last few years and I think he is like 36.
    Of course I understand Feeney is playing hungry because he lacks a Super Bowl on his resume and he was also swindled out of millions of dollars by a suit and tie.
    It does seem like we are hearing a few more defensive voices out here in the last couple of months other than McCoy’s which I think is good.
    Was listening to Phillip Rivers on NFL Sirrus the other day state he firmly believes the only differene between and 4-10 team and a 12-4 team is 3 or 4 plays a game.
    Actually, I couldn’t agree with him more.
    The trick to it though is to find those key players, those playmakers, who are going to make those three or four plays a week.

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    • I see what your trying to say but comparing a future hall of famer like Freeney to Ayers is apples and oranges and here’s why last yr Freeneys numbers were 8 sacks in 11 games and only played in pass rush 3rd down plays not the double digit sacks he is use to getting so in comparison his numbers dropped significantly. Ayers best yr was last yr when he had 9 sacks and that’s his best yr of his career so to expect he can play beyond another 4 yrs and have any success would be well wishful thinking. Look at our own Simeon Rice who was done at 34

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  6. The talent has been upgraded and I think the coaching and scheme will be leaps and bounds better than last couple years. The success of this D line will really depend on injuries and how quickly, Or even if N. spence becomes the pass rusher he appears to have the ability to become. If McCoy, McDonald,Ayers, and Smith all stay healthy and N. Spence can contribute this year it could be a very good D line immediately. If we get couple key injuries and Spence takes couple years to shine could be as bad as last year or worse. I’m optimistic though heading into his season. I see us possibly having a much improved pass rush and defense overall.

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  7. The core group of players responsible for the 38 sacks that ranked 14th in the NFL will all be returning this season.
    The Bucs managed those numbers without Clinton McDoanld, Jacques Smith and Akeem Smith who all missed a combined number of close to 30 games. Gerald McCoy played most of the season with a torn rotator cuff and a broken hand.
    With the addition of Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, the Bucs look poised to achieve more than 40 sacks this season if everyone can stay healthy.
    Can someone see 50 sacks from this group if everyone stays healthy?
    Where have you gone George Johnson?

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  8. I love his attitude! If his performance can match, I think we’ll be in good shape. He should be a good stop-gap player while Spence adjusts to the NFL. Hoping Spence comes into his own quickly but I’d prefer to ease him into it if possible

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