Just nine months after playing in the Pro Bowl in a Dolphins jersey and just 2½ weeks after the biggest rushing game against the Falcons in two years, Jay Ajayi arrived at the NovaCare Complex Wednesday morning ready to begin a new phase of his career.
The Eagles acquired the 24-year-old running back from the Dolphins hours before the trade deadline Tuesday in exchange for a 2018 fourth-round draft pick.
Since opening day last year, Ajayi has the fourth-most rushing yards in the NFL, behind only Ezekiel Elliott, Le'Veon Bell and Jordan Howard (and just ahead of new teammate LeGarrette Blount).
Ajayi met with the media after practice Wednesday and addressed numerous topics, including his role with the Eagles, anonymous allegations coming out of Miami about his attitude, and his relationship with Blount.
Q: What was your initial reaction to the trade?
Ajayi: I enjoyed my time with the Dolphins and appreciated being there. And then getting the news that I’m going to be an Eagle and understanding what comes with that and understanding where this team is and just wanting to be a part of this team, [going to] put my head down and get to work.
Q: Why do you think they traded you?
Ajayi: I have no idea.
Q: What do you expect your role to be?
Ajayi: I think that’s the coach’s decision to make on that, but for me personally in our running back room, just go inside there and [we're going to] push each other to be great. Myself personally, I strive to be great every day and I’m excited to come into this talented room and join these running backs and achieving our goal of helping this team win the Super Bowl.
Q: A lot of anonymous allegations and accusations critical of you started coming out of Miami the last couple days. What was your reaction to all of that?
Ajayi: Those things that are out there, I can only speak on how I view myself. I view myself as a team guy. I’m excited to be on the Eagles, excited for this opportunity. That stuff is in the past. I woke up today as a Philadelphia Eagle and I’m very excited about that.
Q: Do the comments bother you?
Ajayi: It is what it is. 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 I respect all my teammates. I love those guys. Bled. Fought. Won a lot of games with them and enjoyed my time as a Miami Dolphin. At the end of the day, God has another plan for me, and that’s to be with the Philadelphia Eagles. We’re 7-1 and I’m excited about that, and the opportunity to go get this thing, and just here to be a part of that, however the coaching staff wants to use me.
Q: What are your thoughts about running backs coach Duce Staley, who you met during joint practices over the summer?
Ajayi: I was just talking with Coach Duce. It’s ironic that I’m here, even though we got to see each other earlier this year during training camp and we even spoke very briefly in passing in training camp. For him to be my running backs coach, I’m very excited about that opportunity. Somebody that I looked at when I was starting to even follow football, I can remember the name Duce Staley as a Philadelphia Eagles running back. For him to be my running backs coach, I’m excited. Knowing he’ll be able to bring the best out of me.
Q: There was a report that the Dolphins don't think your knee will hold up long term. How is your knee?
Ajayi: My knee’s doing good. Just staying diligent with it. Having a good plan with the training staff, having a good plan with the coaches. Just have to stay with it.
Q: How's your blitz pick-up? Can you be a guy who can be on the field on passing downs?
Ajayi: Definitely, I view myself as a three-down guy (see film study). A guy who can be counted on to do anything that the offense needs me to do. I’m excited to be able to do that role here as well. Just continue to work on my craft, whether it’s blocking, catching the ball out the backfield or running hard for this team. I’m ready to do anything.
Q: Carson (Wentz) said he spoke to you after he heard about the trade. What was that conversation like?
Ajayi: He just basically expressed his excitement to get me out here and get ready to keep this thing rolling. That was warming for me to get the quarterback and some of the guys to send a text and to tweet, so that was really cool. And then just being able to be around him today and even just from watching his game throughout this season, you can tell he’s a special guy, a special talent. I’m excited to be in the backfield with him.
Q: How do things stand between you and LeGarrette Blount?
Ajayi: Me and L.B. have actually had a good relationship through passing on playing games when he was on the Patriots to even when we were out here for joint practices. So I’ve been able to build a little bit of a respect relationship with him, and we’ve had conversations here and there. Now being a teammate, it’s just a really cool dynamic now, and it’s fresh, all of us in the running backs room are all trying to feel each other out, especially with me being the new guy. I’m just trying to join whatever they’ve got going and not try to be a distraction or anything, just try to be a help. I think it’s a great dynamic in that RB room.
Q: How's your understanding of the offense after one day?
Ajayi: It’s been good. I’ve been able to have a lot of good meetings with Coach Staley. We’ve been talking about the offense, going through the playbook and really it’s just about just getting comfortable. That’s what it comes down to. Getting on the field. The coaches getting comfortable in me knowing the plays. So right now it’s just about getting comfortable in the playbook and getting comfortable with my teammates and being able to do that.
Q: Before the trade, Dolphins coach Adam Gase criticized you for trying to hit home runs instead of running in a disciplined style and taking what the defense gives you. What was your reaction to that?
Ajayi: I think that my style is my style. I don’t think it’s a style of always looking to bounce. I think it’s taking what the defense gives you and even creating things if there’s nothing there. I think that’s a lot of my style, being able to break tackles, [play] downhill, and make big plays for the team. I don’t think that’s going to change. Definitely always want to be able to hit the right reads and make the right decisions on the field. At the end of the day, I’m a downhill runner looking to make big plays for this team and that’s what I’m going to continue to do.
Q: What have the last 24 hours been like?
Ajayi: It's been crazy. Never thought I would be traded. It’s something new, a little bit of a new challenge, new adversity, but I feel like I’m built for it. I’ve had a lot of ups and downs in my career and I’m excited to have this as a positive. I’m excited to be here in Philly. I think it’s time for a new opportunity for me and I’m embracing it and just excited to be here.
Q: You caught 50 passes your last year at Boise but only had 48 catches in three years in Miami. Can you be a viable receiver in the NFL?
Ajayi: Always working on my craft. This past offseason, really worked hard on doing a lot of route running and really being able to be a good pass catcher and understanding that if that’s something we need to be able to do here, I can do that and be an option at all times on the field.
Q: How different is the offense here than Miami?
Ajayi: We did a lot of different schemes [in Miami], to be honest, ran a lot of different styles of runs, which is why I feel like I’m very versatile and I can do a lot of different things. Here we actually do a lot of similar things to what I did in Miami. In a way it's a little bit different, some of the little tendencies here and there, but it's nothing too out of the ordinary for me, so it's just about putting it in those same terms that I can remember and I'll know it down pat and getting comfortable doing it over and over, and that way I can get used to this offense.