The last time that Giants defensive end Robert Ayers played in a game with cornerback Walter Thurmond, the two were on opposite sidelines in Super Bowl XLVIII at Met Life Stadium. Thurmond’s Seahawks crushed Ayers’ Broncos on that day last February, but Ayers insists that he’s more concerned with helping the Giants improve than dwelling on the past.
“My memory in that stadium doesn’t really affect how I feel about this season,” said Ayers. “That was last season and this is a whole different team. That’s a motivation factor for me to get back to the Super Bowl but it doesn’t really matter what stadium or bad taste. I want to get out there, I want to play, win, and be a great teammate.”
Thurmond and Ayers are both coming from highly successful teams, but now they must help build up a Giants squad that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2011 season.
“We were 7-9 last year and I’m taking it as if I was 7-9 last year,” said Ayers. “I’m carrying the burden that they had last year and we’re going to move forward. I have their motivation to get back to the playoffs and get things back to where they used to be and try to win it all.”
The Super Bowl is far from the only memory Ayers has of New Jersey. He grew up down the road from MetLife Stadium in Jersey City before moving to California and playing his college ball at Tennessee.
“I’ve been back to Jersey City a few times,” he said. “I’ve seen my grandmother, aunts, and cousins. I actually went to Hoboken once just to hang out with the guys on the defensive line.”
“It is always good to be this close to family,” noted Ayers. “When you’re tired you can lean on them a little bit to put a smile on your face. That’s what my family has done and make everybody laugh.”
Along with Mathias Kiwanuka and Jason Pierre-Paul, Ayers is one of the only veteran pass rushers on the Giants’ defensive line. The trio will be taking a lot of inexperienced players under their wings at camp in the hope of forming a productive unit.
“This is my sixth training camp and I feel this is a very good group of undrafted guys on the defensive line,” said Ayers, “I think those guys have a lot of ability, size, and learn pretty well. They’re working hard. That’s going to be good because we’ll be in the situation where guys can play and compete. That’s a positive.”