Foxborough, Mass. - Eric Warfield is a quiet, humble player who is just looking to become a contributor and make the final roster in New England. An eight-year veteran of the Kansas City Chiefs, Warfield is one of three free agents the Patriots acquired to help the defensive secondary and special teams. He joined safeties Tebuckey Jones and Mel Mitchell as low profile, off-season pickups.
The team has a reputation for signing veterans from other teams who may not be starters, but go on to become key contributors for the Patriots. Some of those acquisitions work out well, like Rodney Harrison and Artrell Hawkins. Others, such as Duane Starks do not.
At the beginning of the off-season, the Patriots took a slow, methodical approach to building up their roster. One of the primary needs they faced was to remake a secondary decimated by injuries the last two seasons. While other teams threw big money deals at big names they hope will have an immediate impact, the Patriots signed players like Warfield -- players who for one reason or another did not fit into the plans of their employer.
Flying well under the radar, since the team's minicamp, Warfield described his progress learning the Patriots system as one hindered by team policy. According to Warfield, he was provided a playbook during the team's minicamp, and then the team took the book back when camp ended. The book was returned to him for training camp.
Learning a new defensive scheme is hard enough, even with his experience, but to do it without the benefit of a playbook is downright difficult. While the transition in Kansas City from one defense to another was an adjustment it wasn't as much of an adjustment compared to what he's going through now.
"We kind of had a head start what we were putting in even when we had coaching changes [in Kansas City]," Warfield explained. "Here they have a totally different strategy. No playbook until minicamp. Then no playbook until training camp."
Warfield felt that not having a playbook while learning the system put him at a disadvantage. "I understand the reason for that," Warfield offered. "But… that was the kind of thing that made it hard for me to adjust [to a new defense]."
The adjustment didn't go well at first for Warfield. Victimized by some deep passes during the team's minicamp bothered him. Getting called out by a young defender over a blown play became the talk of the town. Yet Warfield never complained publicly about the disadvantage he was at. He set his sights on learning the system and making plays.
"I felt like a new guy out of college," he continued. "I kind of got the hang of it by the end of minicamp. I've made some adjustments, and put my head in the [playbook]. I haven't given up any deep balls yet, and I've really clamped down and tried to make some plays out here. I've made a few, but I'm trying to make some more."
Warfield will have to show the coaching staff they made the right decision when they opted to sign him. With the Ty Law saga over, The Patriots decision not to throw big money at a free agent may be judged by how well Warfield is able to learn the scheme and show his talent.
Described as a "supremely talented cornerback" in the Chiefs official player bio, it's reasonable to assume Warfield will compete with the other cornerbacks on the roster for playing time. Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, Chad Scott and Randall Gay appear to be ahead of Warfield on the depth chart at this juncture. With Gay out on the PUP list, Warfield has an opportunity to make the roster by showing he can make those plays.
Fans haven't had much to cheer for with some of the Patriots' recent free agent acquisitions in the secondary, but if Warfield can learn the scheme in time, that may change quickly.
|Defensive back Eric Warfield walks between the linemen and the secondary as he readies for a team drill at Patriots training camp July 30, 2006 (Photo Kate Hamlin/ PatriotsInsider.com)|
Insiders Extra: To listen to PI's interview with Warfield click the links below:
On learning the New England System:
On the changes in Kansas City: