For Robert Ayers, the new hire of the Tampa Bay Bucs, it was a fairly impressive football season.
Twelve games. Nine sacks. A nice new contract.
To Ayers, however, it was even better than that.
“In my mind, I had 10 sacks,” Ayers said in a conference call with the Tampa Bay media Tuesday. “We were playing against Minnesota, and I beat the guard and pulled down the quarterback. A teammate of mine, George Selvie, jumped on him and they gave him a half (sack). But if he hadn’t jumped on him, the quarterback might have thrown it away.”
Ayers will be the latest defensive end to try to fill the Bucs’ long search for a pass-rusher. The team had Lee Roy Selmon and Simeon Rice, but it went through Booker Reese, Keith McCants, Regan Upshaw, Eric Curry, Ron Holmes and Da’Quan Bowers, among others, in a largely fruitless search.
Ayers, too, has had a personal search for success. He had only 7½ sacks in his first four seasons in the NFL, but has 19½ the past three years.
“It was a combination of a lot of things,” Ayers said. “When I first came into the league, I wasn’t as mature. I was asked to do things I wasn’t capable of. I faced a lot of challenges.”
Ayers was among a cluster of defensive ends who signed early in free agency, including Mario Williams and Olivier Verner. So who will have the most sacks.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say me,” Ayers said.