The newspaper headline reads "Warren needs discipline. Will Davis allow it?" Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren has the headline hanging in his locker at training camp. It's not flattering and Warren uses it as motivation. If it works, great, but so far nothing has pushed this man's button.
Warren is entering his third year in the NFL. He has the distinction of being Head Coach Butch Davis' original first round draft pick and that honor comes with a large weight of expectation that Warren has had a hard time carrying on his big shoulders. "I guess they're (fans) expecting Pro Bowl my entire career," shrugged Warren as he stood in front of his locker.
His play has proven to be far from Pro Bowl caliber. Warren totaled 78 tackles and five sacks when he started 15 games as a rookie in 2001. A year ago, his tackle total dropped to 54 and his sacks fell off to only two. In the Browns first preseason game this year, Warren registered no tackles.
He is not the dominating force the Browns expected him to be when they drafted him out of the University of Florida with the third overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft. The only thing Warren has dominated is the headlines proclaiming his underachievement. "It comes down to the man inside," said Warren on the topic of getting the job done and he feels, despite a growing wave of criticism, that he is the right man to do just that for the Browns defense.
Warren looks back on his first two years in the NFL and sees maybe a slightly overwhelmed college player. "It was a time of adjustment," he said. "Now, I feel I've made the adjustments. I feel I'm light years ahead of where I was a season ago."
It is time to prove it. The Browns inexperience at linebacker makes the maturation of Warren a long overdue process. If he fails to anchor the defensive line, the rest of the unit will suffer and he knows it. "If other teams run the ball down our throat, well, we're in trouble," he offered as an understatement. "We (defensive line) have to protect the linebackers up front."
Warren likes new defensive coordinator Dave Campo's scheme. He said Campo has broken down a complicated defensive approach and made it simple. "It rewards both physical and mental play," said the 6-'4", 325 pound Warren. The Browns are hoping "simple" develops into "solid" and then blossoms into "spectacular." The fans will accept nothing less and Warren feels he is ready to deliver. "Yea," he said answering a question on whether he is ready to break-out, "this will be my break-out year. I hope to be making plays in Cleveland, Houston and Hawaii this year." Houston is the site of the Super Bowl and Hawaii hosts the Pro Bowl so Warren has high expectations.
They call Gerard Warren "Big Money." The moniker serves as a reminder that he is being paid very well by the Browns. It is time to start earning it.