FOXBORO, Mass. — Akeem Ayers has no idea when he’ll play or where he’ll line up, but the linebacker is happy after being traded to the New England Patriots.
Ayers quickly went from being a versatile, every-down player for the Tennessee Titans to a healthy scratch in five of seven games this season. He underwent two knee surgeries over the offseason and wasn’t deemed a great fit for Titans defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s 3-4 scheme, so he sat until Tennessee could receive pretty much anything in return for the former second-round draft pick.
The Patriots traded a sixth-round pick to the Titans for Ayers and a seventh-round selection, which could wind up being a steal for New England.
Ayers, in his fourth NFL season, seems like a solid fit to take over early down snaps for Jerod Mayo (who’s out for the season with a knee injury), and he could assume Chandler Jones’ third-down pass-rushing reps until the defensive end returns from a hip injury.
“I believe I have a lot of versatility,” Ayers said Thursday in the Patriots’ locker room, two days after being traded. “I can drop in coverage, I can rush. I think that can help me out, just being able to learn the plays I can learn and things like that.”
Ayers said he’s still uncertain if he’ll play Sunday against the Chicago Bears, and if he does, it might be in a limited role while the 25-year-old acclimates himself to the Patriots’ defense.
“The guys are already up, and they’re at full speed already, and I’m a new guy just coming in, and I have a ton to learn,” Ayers said. “Sometimes it takes months to learn a full playbook. Really trying to have the mental capacity and just trying to focus on learning the playbook everyday, and at the same time trying to get to know the guys in the locker room.”
It’s a positive sign that Ayers passed his physical after having patellar tendons in both knees repaired over the offseason, and he said he’s no longer limited with the injuries. He spoke nervously in front of the Patriots media scrum but said he’s glad to be in New England.
“I’m pretty much just happy to be here,” Ayers said. “Obviously I wasn’t playing there, and I just happened to get into a good situation here. All in all, I’m just pretty much just happy to be in a better situation where I can play, possibly, and just move on from things from there.”
Photo via Stephan Savoia/Associated Press
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