TAMPA (FOX 13) - Bucs defensive end Robert Ayers is bringing something to the team that's been missing -- an edge rusher with an attitude. Ayers brings 'grit.'
"I do feel like I'm a naturally pissed-off person, and sometimes things happen and fights break out," Ayers explained. "I've never been part of a team where there aren't fights and there aren't guys going at each other's neck, but it's [the] nature of the beast. I want to win, they want to win."
Ayers' saltiness is spreading, even when he's on the sidelines.
"Yeah, and it's great, we need it," Bucs Head Coach Dirk Koetter said. "We need that, and I think if you've really been paying attention out here, I think you see that he's got other guys falling in line behind him on that, and it's a great thing to see because we need it."
"As long as he brings it on Sunday like that," said offensive tackle Demar Dotson. "As long as he's not just a practice guy. A 'rah-rah' guy that just do it out here on the practice field and don't bring it on Sunday's, then that's who he is. But as long as he's willing to bring it on Sunday's and still brings that same grit then I have no issue with it."
The Bucs love the 'grit' that Ayers brings to this defense, but the offensive players will tell you that 'grit' definitely get under their skin.
"Robert will get under your skin," said Dotson. "He gets under my skin a lot. You kind of get a little upset with him then you realize he's on your team. Because you want to take shots at him. I be wanting to take a shot at him every now and then. Then you realize well this guy is on your team and you need this guy on your team."
"Every day we go out there and literally we watch film, and we feel like [offensive lineman] Ali [Marpet], he's doing some extra stuff, or [center Joe] Hawley or [offensive lineman] Evan [Smith] or [offensive tackle] 'Dot' [Demar Dotson] or whoever," said Ayers. "Every day we watch film, we're like, 'They're doing something.' I'm pretty sure they're saying the same thing about us, but it's just guys competing, it's just guys trying to get better. There's guys trying to win and trying to get the best of the other person, so every day that's happening and sometimes [stuff] happens [laughs]."
Ayers plays with controlled aggression. He plays within the rules, flagged just three times last season. What drives his high-octane motor is a burning will to win. It's a trait he sees with others on the defense.
"We're hungry man, and I see it in a lot guys, I see the way Gerald McCoy is out there. That dude sets the tempo, that dude's a monster. To the offense's credit, they've been competing with them, they're not just taking it, they're giving it back to him. You may see Gerald kick a lot of [butt], but they're going back at him too, and that's a good thing. Me, I want to follow his lead, I want to kick [butt] just like him. Lavonte and Kwon, you see Clinton out there, you see [defensive tackle] Cliff Matthews, that dude's been picking it up. It's contagious man, competition is contagious. We want to get it man, we want to win," he said.
Ayers will turn 31 at the start of the season and he knows his time is closing on getting it done.