NEWS

Ty Warren comes with a belt for Patriots

Glen Farley

Why did New England Patriots defensive end Ty Warren move toward the head of the NFL class in 2006?

Lesson learned.

"I think I got better," Warren acknowledged during a recent break at the Patriots' Gillette Stadium training camp. "I understand the concept of everything and what's being asked of me and the defense. I've just run with that.

"I've always been fast. I've always been strong," said Warren. "I'm not dumb, but at the same time when you start to understand things and what's being asked of you and what's being asked of the guys around you, that's when all that strength and speed is second hand to you. That was the difference for me last year."

The Patriots' first-round pick in the 2003 draft, after totaling 33, 64 and 77 tackles his first three seasons in the NFL, the Texas A&M product cracked the 100-tackle plateau with 117 last year.

Often relegated to playing in the 300-plus-pound shadows cast by perennial Pro Bowler Richard Seymour and the man in the middle, Vince Wilfork, Warren is now carving out his own identity as a defensive lineman in the NFL who could soon be booking postseason flights to Hawaii himself.

"I think it's flattering people have all these expectations for me," said Warren. "I have expectations for myself. That's just to build upon what I've done already. My goal every year is to get better and better. If you're not getting better, then you're getting worse."

While he may not have come into his own, there is no question that Warren improved rather dramatically over the course of a 2006 campaign in which he totaled 10 tackles or more on seven occasions.

For Warren, the light clicked on when the lights were turned off, his progress carrying over from the film room to the playing field.

"There's a difference between watching film and just looking at it, (where) you're gazing at it and know what's going on but some things are over your head as far as what the coaches are expecting of you," said Warren. "It's another thing when you're watching that film and (saying), 'All right, that's what he's talking about,' or 'that's what he's expecting right here or right there.' I watched a ton of film the year before last and it just all came together."

Twice last season, Warren registered a career high in tackles with 12, first in the Patriots' 24-17 win over the New York Jets last Sept. 17, then again in their 27-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 5.

He recorded a career-high eight solo stops in a 17-13 victory over the Chicago Bears on Nov. 26 and matched his career-high in sacks with a pair in a 28-21 win over the Detroit Lions the next week.

All this while missing just one game, the Patriots' 17-14 loss in their rematch with the Jets with a shoulder injury, the first absence in Warren's four-year NFL career snapping his consecutive games streak at 56.

A fast start with his sack of Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman for a safety that provided the margin of victory in the Patriots' 19-17 season-opening win over the Bills last Sept. 10 was followed by a fantastic finish as he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Month after a December that saw him total 43 tackles and four sacks.

Warren's consistent play resulted in him placing second on the team in tackles to inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi's 124.

"I'm just trying to build upon what I did last year and pray that I stay healthy," said Warren. "It's a violent game, but hopefully I'm outlasting all the violence."