Free agent ‘recruited’ by Seymour
FOXBOROUGH — Bill Belichick may have made the final call on signing free agent defensive tackle Gerard Warren, but the identity of the Patriots’ lead recruiter is a little less likely.
Much of what Warren knows about the organization came from talks with New England outcast Richard Seymour. They played on the Raiders defensive line after Seymour was dealt to Oakland in September.
“I talked to Richard a little bit about it during the season last year, actually, not much this offseason, just about the experience of New England and what the expectations are inside the building,’’ said Warren, who signed on the final day of the draft. “He kind of gave me the groundwork, so it made the decision a lot easier in the offseason.’’
Seymour’s message: “It’s all business, you come in, play winning football, have fun, it’s a family environment. When you walk in the door, it’s all business.’’
Warren’s history with the Patriots actually goes back to the predraft process in 2001.
There was enough interest on New England’s end to lead the Florida product to believe he’d be selected with the sixth overall pick. The Browns wound up selecting Warrren third overall, and the Patriots took Seymour three picks later.
“[Former Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo] Crennel came down to work me out the Thursday before the draft, so I thought, ‘They’re showing a lot of interest if I’m getting worked out the Thursday before the draft, one last look,’ ’’ Warren said. “So I thought I was going to end up in New England.’’
Warren played four years for the Browns. Crennel arrived in Cleveland in 2005 and traded him to Denver for a fourth-round pick before that season. He played two years for the Broncos, and the last three in Oakland.
The signing of Warren, along with fellow veteran Damione Lewis, helps replenish the depth up front on defense, left depleted in Seymour’s absence last year, and further sapped with Jarvis Green’s departure for Denver. Warren is already working to make sure the transition into the New England system is seamless.
“We go out and do our individual drills, but sitting down and talking with Vince [Wilfork] kind of gives me some insight on what to expect and techniques that I need to use, and the differences between the 4-3 and 3-4,’’ Warren said. “It’s coming along pretty well, but once things get moving full speed, that’ll be the test of how I’m picking it up.’’
The nine young men who are this year’s undrafted players need only look to defensive lineman Mike Wright as Exhibit A. Wright joined the Patriots in 2005 out of Cincinnati and played in 13 games that first season; he has created a niche for himself, playing end and nose tackle as well as on special teams.
Asked what advice he would give to those facing the same challenge he did six years ago, Wright said, “If I had anything to say to them, it would be just to listen, watch the older guys. There’s guys that have been around here for 10 years, 12 years, and that’s what I did: I watched the guys in front of me and learned from them because they’ve been around the longest; and listen to your coaches, because we have great coaches around here, especially [defensive line coach] Pepper Johnson. In my case, he’s made me the player I am.’’
Wright played all 16 games last season, starting a career-high nine. He had 48 tackles and five sacks, also a career best.
“I know it changed my whole role on the defensive line,’’ said Wright. “I got a little bit more playing time, people were more dependent on me and I had to step up and I tried to play to the best of my ability.
He will have competition, however, from free agent pickups Warren and Lewis, but Wright knows that is just part of the business. New England is constantly looking to improve its roster, and he must respond by getting better.
To that end, the Ohio native said his goal is simply to become more consistent this year.
“I played really well at times and I was really disappointed with my play at times,’’ said Wright, adding that mimicking D-line stalwarts Ty Warren and Wilfork as well as film work and on-field drills will all play a role in his effort.