A groin injury has sidelined Nathan Ayers for Morgan State's past three games, but the senior outside linebacker is hoping to return Saturday against North Carolina Central.
The Baltimore resident and Dunbar graduate returned to Tuesday's practice for the first time since suffering the injury in the team's 28-3 rout of Bowie State on Sept. 13, and he is cautiously optimistic that he will be available when the Bears (3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) welcome the Eagles (3-3, 2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday.
"It's very tough to see my team out there playing," Ayers said after practice. "I just want to help. But I've been on the sideline coaching them up whenever I can. If I see something on the field, I've been trying to watch film with the coaches so that I can see more from a coach's standpoint, not just a player's standpoint. … It's been tough. But I'm glad that I'm back now."
The 6-foot, 200-pound Ayers, who has registered just 4½ tackles and one pass breakup this season, had been replaced by junior Fonyi Agendia, who has posted six tackles and one sack. Ayers admitted that he felt a little rusty in his first practice since the injury and made a couple wrong calls on defense.
But assistant head coach and defensive coordinator John Morgan Jr. said Ayers' presence would aid the defense.
"It's affected us a lot," Morgan said of Ayers' absence. "Nate is definitely the quarterback of our defense. Even though he hasn't been on the field, he's been with us, coming into the film room, looking at games, and just communicating with everybody and calling things out. So it's definitely been a hindrance, but we've had some guys step up. … It would definitely be a blessing to get him back. … We've got to get him on the field and get him loosened up and see how he does and hopefully, we can have him for the rest of the season."
Ayers probably won't know until Friday or Saturday whether Morgan will give him the green light to play. If the decision was Ayers', making it wouldn't take that much time.
"I want to play, but I've got to do what's best for the team, and if he feels as though I need to rest up one more time to finish the season strong, then that's what I'll do," Ayers said. "I'm not going to press Coach and say, 'I've got to play.' Do I want to play? Yes, I do want to play, but if he wants to rest me one more week, I'd be fine with that."