Akeem Ayers joined the Patriots this week. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — Akeem Ayers sounds like a man happy for a fresh start.
The outside linebacker, who was acquired by the Patriots from Tennessee earlier this week for a draft pick in hopes of shoring up New England’s front seven, saw his Titans’ career end on a sour note when he clashed with first-year Tennessee coach Ken Whisenhunt on a few issues.
But on Thursday afternoon, he said that’s all behind him.
“I’m pretty much just happy to be here,” he said after practice. “Obviously, I wasn’t playing there, and I’m happy to be in a good situation here. So all in all, just pretty much just happy to be in a better position where I can get on the field to play possibly and move on from there.”
Ayers and Whisenhunt reportedly clashed on a few different things, including Ayers’ apparent lack of value on special teams, as well as Ayers’ rehab process after undergoing surgery on both knees over the course of the offseason. That could have been one of the reasons Ayers only played 10 snaps over the first seven games of the season.
“I think we had an opportunity, and I think it was good for both parties,” Whisenhunt told reporters who asked about the trade on Wednesday. “It gave Akeem a chance to get a fresh start, and it gave us a chance to get something in exchange for that.
“I think really a big part of it was special teams. When you’re in that role, you’ve got to be able to contribute special teams wise, and we needed that, and we just didn’t feel like we were getting enough in that area.”
On Thursday, Ayers indicated that his knees aren’t an issue. He also sounded like someone who wouldn’t be averse to the idea of playing special teams in New England, saying that he “definitely” has a special teams background.
“I worked hard all offseason to get back healthy — [I] had some good rehab and things like that,” he said when asked about his knees. “It paid off. I’m feeling great, not limited, I’m happy where I’m at.”
The 6-foot-3, 253-pound Ayers was a defensive end at UCLA, and had his best season in 2012 when he had a career-best six sacks and eight passes defensed to go along with 110 tackles for Tennessee. From 2011 through 2013, he started 44 of a possible 48 games in his first three years with the Titans.
In terms of how he fits in Foxboro, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had a couple of ideas.
“He’s played linebacker. He’s played defensive end in some sub situations,” Belichick said of Ayers on Wednesday. “We will see [what he is more suited to play]. I’d say he has some versatility, but we will see.”
“I believe I have a lot of versatility,” Ayers said. “I’m able to drop in coverage, a lot of things that people already know. I can drop in coverage [and] I can rush, so I think that can help me out.”
In terms of whether or not he’ll be able to go this weekend against the Bears, Ayers, who will wear No. 52, remains optimistic.
“We haven’t gotten to detail that much,” he said when asked about the potential for him to play this weekend. “I just got here, and I’ve got to meet with people, a lot of things like that, but I think the defense fits what I’m able to do well.
“We do a lot of different things, so it can be good, but at the same time I’m just trying to learn each day, we’re progressing as far as what I’m going to be doing, what I’m not going to be doing. I’ve only been here for a few days, so I’m trying to take it a day at a time.”