The countdown is on to training camp. Before we get there, we have another in our interview series from the recently completed organized team activities (OTA’s).
In this edition, we feature linebacker Robert Ayers (RA), one of the Broncos’ two first-round draft picks from the 2009 NFL draft. The Broncos selected Ayers 18th overall out of the University of Tennessee.
In his rookie season a year ago, Ayers played in 15 games and made 19 tackles. He also recorded two pass defenses and scored a defensive touchdown.
Ayers is looking to make even more of an impact in 2010.
850 KOA: In general, how have the offseason and OTA’s gone for you?
RA: Going good. I definitely feel a lot more comfortable with the defense and the coaches have had more confidence in me it seems. I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunities and make plays when I can.
850 KOA: Coach McDaniels has said you’re one of the more vocal guys on the field. What have you done to encourage the guys?
RA: Just talking and trying to communicate. In college, I was a very vocal player (and) emotional on the field. I’m just trying to carry it over to now. It’s hard to be vocal when you’re trying to figure out what you’re doing. Now I’m feeling more comfortable with the scheme and my responsibilities so I have to be more vocal out there.
850 KOA: How big of a change was the defensive scheme? Coming from Tennessee where you played with your hand down to now standing up a lot, how big of an adjustment is playing an odd man front in the 3-4 defense?
RA: As a defensive end, you’re constantly in attack mode. 99.9 percent of your plays are going forward. When I got here, I was asked to do different things but to much is given, much is required. I feel like this is my chance to take advantage of it and step up to the plate and that’s what I’m trying to do.
850 KOA: There have been some practices the veterans don’t have to take part. Coach calls them “opportunity practices” for the other guys. What are those like?
RA: It’s a chance for a lot of guys like myself, Darcel McBath, Richard Quinn and so on to focus in on what they have to do and try to play at a high level and get an opportunity they probably wouldn’t have if the other guys were here. You also have the rookies and free agent guys who are trying to make an impression and they weren’t getting an opportunity.
850 KOA: You and Knowshon Moreno were the Broncos’ first-round picks in 2009. You played against Knowshon in college. Did you get to know each other at all before you came here?
RA: No we didn’t. He had some good games against us; I had some good games against him. Since I’ve known him, I know he’s a great guy (and) I’m glad to have him on my team.
850 KOA: Where do you see yourself fitting in this year?
RA: I’ve been working hard in the offseason. I definitely want to establish myself as a dominant player. Nobody wants to just be mediocre. Everybody wants to make plays and contribute to the team. The thing I want to do the most is win. I’ve always aimed to win so if I can establish myself as a great player, I feel I can help the team win and those are my goals.
850 KOA: What differences have you already seen with your new defensive coordinator, Don Martindale?
RA: Just the mindset and approach we’re taking: The aggression, the play calling and him trying to let the players play and get after it. I’m not saying Coach Nolan didn’t (do those things) but you can just really see it. It shows a little more with the personality of Wink compared to Coach Nolan. Both are great coaches but Wink’s personality comes out in his play calling, the way he approaches things and what he expects of you.
850 KOA: Did you get a chance to Facebook Lane Kiffin after he left Tennessee? Did you send any messages to him?
RA: (chuckling) (USC) was his dream job so no hard feelings. For the sake of my program, my alma mater, I want them to get things turned around. The coaches there feel like they’re on the right path so I hope we can get things going.
850 KOA: Robert, thanks for the time. Stay healthy and all the best this year.
RA: Thank you.
Feel free to leave your thoughts on how Ayers might do in this year’s Broncos’ defense. I’ll have one more interview before posting a training camp preview at the end of the month.
As always, thanks for reading and posting.
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