Eagles
Dave Zangaro | NBC Sports Philadelphia

Why Eagles believe Jay Ajayi won't spoil 'established culture'

The Packers were 8-3 in late November 1996 but had lost their last two games when they claimed troubled wide receiver Andre Rison off waivers from the Jaguars.

Rison, who had been a four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver much earlier in his career, had been dogged for years by off-the-field issues and when he joined the Packers that fall, they were his fourth team in under a year.

There were those who felt it was a bad fit, that Rison would ruin the Packers' chemistry. But with Rison in the fold, the Packers closed out the regular season with five straight wins before beating the pre-Tom Brady Patriots in the Super Bowl.

Doug Pederson was on that Packers' team, and he said that experience with Rison — who he didn't mention by name — goes a long way toward his comfort level bringing in Jay Ajayi this week.

Rison wound up playing only five regular-season games for the Packers before finishing his career with the Chiefs and Raiders, but he did catch two TDs in the postseason that year, including a 54-yard TD from Brett Favre just three minutes into Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.

"Everybody’s got a past, everybody’s got a past," Pederson said Wednesday, one day after the Eagles traded a fourth-round pick to the Dolphins for the former Pro Bowl running back.

"I was in a situation where we brought in a player and there were reports of character issues and all kinds of things, and you know what? The guys rallied around him, and there was not one issue whatsoever with this player, and we went on to win a Super Bowl."

There have been numerous anonymous reports floating out of Miami in the last few days about Ajayi and his negative effect on the Dolphins' locker room. One report said it was Ajayi's inability to fit into the Dolphins' culture that led to the team shipping him.

But Pederson and Carson Wentz both said Wednesday they're comfortable with the addition.

"I got a chance to speak with Jay, texted him yesterday, he seems like he'll be a great fit for this team, a great fit for this locker room," Wentz said. "I don't foresee any issues with that. …

"You never want to kind of mess with the mojo so to speak, but this move I don't think anyone's concerned about. And we have such good leadership, such good veterans, that if there is any of that, it'll get squished real quick.

"The beautiful part of this team, this locker room, we have a lot of guys, a lot of leadership. We have older guys, younger guys, we just have a lot of guys, a lot of mature individuals who just want to win.

"The usual leaders, the captains, are the guys that jump out, but we have a handful of other guys who'll make sure to keep this train rolling."

Pederson echoed what Howie Roseman said Tuesday, that the Eagles wouldn't have made this move if they weren't confident in Ajayi's ability to fit into the Eagles' culture.

“Listen," Pederson said. "In this business, nobody’s perfect. Even coaches. I stand up here not being perfect.

"But, you know, we’re getting a really good person off the football field as well as on. …

"I can’t speculate what happened in South Florida. But I trust the guys on this team to handle players."

How will the 24-year-old Ajayi handle being in a running back rotation? How will he handle Pederson's carefully crafted team-first culture? How will he deal with a game where he only gets a few carries?

"We’ve established a culture on how we do things around here, so I implore (the players) to just embrace it and to bring him in," Pederson said.

"I had a conversation with him and you’ve got to be open and honest and say, 'This is how we do things around here,' and welcome him in and get him up to speed."

Pederson said the Eagles did their due diligence in regard to investigating Ajayi's background before they made the trade.

The Eagles are 7-1 with a six-game winning streak, but anybody who was around here in 2004 and 2005 knows the dramatic effect — both positive and negative — that one player can have on a talented team.

How can the Eagles be so sure about Ajayi?

“You can reach out to the (Dolphins) coaching staff and then just ask them, 'How was he in the building? How was he in the locker room? Game day?'" Pederson said. "And you can get a lot of your answers solved right there.

"And you can go back and read your reports. If you evaluated him coming out (of college), you can go back and read and see what he was like then and see if things have changed.

"But you just have to pick up a phone and call people who’ve been around him."