The 2010 season for veteran linebacker Kawika Mitchell has unfortunately ended before it began as he was placed on injured reserve Friday effectively ending his season. Buffalo wasted little time filling the void signing free agent LB Akin Ayodele (pronounced AY-dell).
Ayodele is entering his ninth season in the NFL and joins the Bills after being released by Denver on August 24. The 6-2, 255-pound linebacker is very familiar with Bills defensive coordinator George Edwards as he started 15-of-16 games with Miami last season, and ranked third on the Dolphins with 70 tackles (60 solo). Edwards was Miami's linebackers coach (2005-2009) prior to joining Buffalo's staff.
"Never have I been in this situation before, but at the end of the day it's football," said Ayodele of signing a couple of days before a season opener. "You have to adjust mid-stream and I'm very familiar with George (Edwards) and the scheme. I've played a lot of football games. At the end of the day I love to play ball. The good thing about defense is it's easier than offense, see ball, go get ball."
In his eight-year career with stints with Jacksonville (2002-05), Dallas (2006-07) and Miami (2008-09), Ayodele has started 104-of-128 games played and posted 630 tackles (493 solo) with 9.5 sacks, nine fumble recoveries and 10 forced fumbles.
With experience in a pair of 3-4 schemes with the Cowboys and Dolphins, Ayodele does not anticipate it taking long for him to get up to speed.
"I'm still learning," he said. "I know the base of (the 3-4), but the system stuff is something I'll have to look into. I know George personally and I know his mindset, so I know his thoughts and what he likes and from knowing that I'm pretty sure I'm going to like it."
"He seems to be a very bright young man," said Gailey. "I don't see the learning curve being nearly as large as you might think with just bringing a guy in off the street. He does have knowledge of what we're trying to get done. I think he'll get familiar with the terminology fairly quickly. The quicker the better and he'll be a part of us shortly."
But with two days to prepare for a regular season game, head coach Chan Gailey stated that Ayodele would not be dressed for Sunday's home opener.
"He'll be on the inactive list this week and then we'll find out where he is and what he knows and what he can add for us in the next week or two," said Gailey. "How fast he comes along is up to him."
Remarkably durable, Ayodele is one of three linebackers (Keith Brooking and London Fletcher) in the NFL to have appeared in all 16 regular season games every year since 2002. He's capable of playing both inside positions in a 3-4 defensive scheme and is known as a physical run defender.
He signed with Denver this past offseason, but did not make the final cut. The 30-year old is expected to step in at inside linebacker in a reserve capacity along with fellow veteran Keith Ellison.
Ayodele originally entered the NFL as a third-round (89th overall) draft choice of Jacksonville in 2002. Ayodele will wear jersey No. 50.
For Mitchell meanwhile the latest injury setback has to be a painful one. He sustained a foot injury in practice on Wednesday that Gailey termed serious.
"Unfortunately Kawika had a lot worse problem than we had anticipated," Gailey said. "It's going to be quite a few weeks and we just couldn't wait so we needed to make the move and fortunately Akin was available and hopefully he'll learn quickly and be ready to roll."
Mitchell worked extremely hard for the past 10 months rehabbing a torn quadriceps muscle suffered in Week Five last season. Though he did not win a starting job at inside linebacker, he was expected to serve the team in certain subpackages.