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Confident McKenzie ready to go

Patriots linebacker Tyrone McKenzie missed his entire rookie season with the torn ACL but that hasn't stopped the former third-round pick from preparing to make his mark in the NFL.


Say this for Tyrone McKenzie: the man does not lack for confidence.

Listening to the 2009 third-round pick speak to the media Tuesday it was hard to determine whether it was Ray Lewistalking instead of an unproven second-year player.

"I'm very strong, I'm very fast. I have a lot of assets that are part of my game," said McKenzie, who mentioned he has no lingering restrictions after suffering a torn ACL during last year's rookie mini-camp and won't wear a brace. "You guys (the media) can fill in the blanks. I'll give you plenty to write about. I just have to get on the field first."

That doesn't sound like a guy still waiting to take his first NFL snap. McKenzie, who added eight pounds to his sturdy 6-2 frame, wasn't done.

"I'm more of a hybrid linebacker, to where I have the size, I have the height, I have the weight, but I have the speed too," he said. "I now have more power to bring the heat."

McKenzie manned the middle of South Florida's 4-3 defense during his senior year but possesses a lot of Ted Johnson-like qualities that should allow him to succeed inside in the Patriots 3-4. The added size will help, and his propensity for taking on guards and enjoying the physical game are absolute musts for the position.

Given his attitude, it wasn't surprising to hear his reaction to questions regarding one of this year's second-round picks, inside linebacker Brandon Spikes. Spikes has a similar resume and figures to compete for playing time immediately, possibly at the expense of McKenzie depending on how the competition works itself out.

Just don't expect McKenzie to shy away from the challenge.

"I'm very excited. Right now, we have so many linebackers, inside and outside. We have a lot of good guys and a lot of guys that are going to compete," McKenzie said. "At the end of the day, you want to win. So let's get the best players on the field and let's win."

Given the road McKenzie has already traveled just to get here, having to compete for a job figures to be the least of his concerns. The 24-year-old was forced to attend three colleges following an accident his mother was involved in several years ago. He worked nights while attending classes and playing football as he cared for his mother after transferring closer to home.

McKenzie's story caught Bill Belichick's eye and the coach's glowing testimonial following the 2009 draft still resonates more than a year later.

"Of all the players that I've talked to and we've interviewed this year and even through the years, Tyrone is one of the most impressive," Belichick said after drafting McKenzie. "Maturity, intelligence, what he's done with the opportunities he's had or that he's had to overcome, how he's dealt with them, how he's made the most of them; it hasn't been easy."

Easy doesn't seem to be McKenzie's way, and he has no problem with that whatsoever.

"You just have to be strong and keep bouncing back," McKenzie said after his workout at Gillette Stadium. "That's what I've done my entire life. Now I'm just excited to play."

Many Patriots fans would share that enthusiasm.

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