FERRO: Philadelphia Eagles believe winning culture will overcome any issues with Jay Ajayi

(Allentown) Morning Call (TNS)
  • The Philadelphia Eagles traded for running back Jay Ajayi on Tuesday.
  • Ajayi has a reputation for sometimes being difficult to deal with.
  • Eagles coach Doug Pederson believes the team's winning culture will help in dealing with Ajayi.

By now, everyone knows the good, the bad and the ugly surrounding new Philadelphia Eagles running back Jay Ajayi, acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins on Tuesday.

Coach Doug Pederson suggested Wednesday that those bad and ugly components will not be an issue because of the winning culture this team has established.

Philadelphia Eagles defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (91) has a laugh with newly acquired Eagles running back Jay Ajayi during his first practice with the Eagles, Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017 in Philadelphia. Ajayi was acquired in a trade with the Miami Dolphins.

“In this business, nobody’s perfect,” Pederson said. “… We’re getting a really good person off the football field as well as on. And this is where the leadership of the football team, when you talk about ownership of the team … when you bring guys in at the midpoint of the season like we’ve done, this is where they embrace those guys.

“We’ve established a culture on how we do things around here, so I implore those guys to just embrace it. I’ve had a conversation with him and we just have to be open and honest and say, `Hey, this is how we do things around here.’ [We] welcomed him in and we’ll get him up to speed.”

Ajayi's reputation: Ajayi comes in with a reputation of being difficult to handle. There were reports that he clashed with Dolphins coach Adam Gase and that Gase didn’t want him anymore because of that and inconsistent play, especially in pass protection, which is what the Eagles are counting on most from him.

Pederson made it clear he is counting on culture to trump all, and offered an experience from his playing days as an example.

“I was in a situation [with the Green Bay Packers] where we brought in a player,” he said, “and there were reports of character issues and all kinds of things. And you know what? Guys rallied around him and there was not one issue whatsoever with this player. And we went on to win the Super Bowl.”

Pederson likely was referring to wide receiver Andre Rison, though he never mentioned him by name.

There have been other examples in which a similar dynamic has occurred — Randy Moss with New England, Dennis Rodman with the Chicago Bulls and even Terrell Owens with the Eagles, even if it only lasted one season.

Can Ajayi be the next?

Wentz says he'll be great fit: Sure thing, according to quarterback Carson Wentz, who after talking with him for the first time came away impressed.

“He seems like he’ll be a great fit,” Wentz said Wednesday before practice. “Great fit for this team, great fit for this locker room. I don’t foresee any issues … and we’re excited.

“Any time you can add a talent like that, a player of his caliber, we’ll see how quickly he picks up on the offense and everything that goes with that, so who knows how that will all play out? But I’m excited that we can add a guy as talented as he is.”

Ajayi last season rushed for 1,272 yards and eight TDs on his way to the Pro Bowl. He averaged 4.9 yards per rush.

This year, playing for an offense that’s ranked last in the NFL, he’s averaging 3.4 yards per carry with no touchdowns.

Leadership can overcome potential problems: Like Pederson and executive vice president of football operations Howie Roseman, Wentz believes there’s enough leadership to overcome any potential problem that can arise from adding a big new piece this late in the season.

“I don’t know of any criticisms that are out there,” the London-born Ajayi said, a British accent evident. “I can only speak of how I view myself, and I view myself as a team guy. I’m excited to be here on the Eagles, excited for this opportunity.”

Ajayi admitted to being stunned by the trade.

“But it is what it is,” he said. “It’s a business, and at the end of the day I can just say I respect the Dolphins for giving me the opportunity to chase my dream of being in the NFL. And I can say that I respect all my teammates. I love those guys … won a lot of games with them and enjoyed my time as a Miami Dolphin.

“But at the end of the day God had another plan for me, and that was to be here and be on the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re 7-1, and I’m excited about the opportunity to go get this thing. So I’m just here to be a part of that, however the coaches and staff want to use me.”

Blount was blunt: The reaction of LeGarrette Blount, who will remain the starter, at least until Ajayi can get up to speed with his new offense, was a little less subdued.

Blount was blunt.

“There was no reaction,” he said. “I can only control what I can control. That decision was made from up top.”

Blount did go on to say that “obviously he is someone that can contribute to this team and he can help us a lot. So we’re going to welcome him with open arms.”