SAN JOSE, Calif. – These past few weeks have been frustrating times for Ty Warren. New England's starter on the left side of the defensive line has been forced out of action in recent games due to a nagging groin injury.
This is the first time in his pro career that an injury has limited his ability to play.
"And even when I was in college," he added, "I mean, I had a couple of ankle injuries, high ankle sprains that kept me out a couple of weeks. I've been fortunate to not have injuries keep me out a substantial amount of time.
"The good thing is, I'm doing good," he said with his trademark smile. "Look forward to being out there this Sunday."
If that happens, that'll be good news indeed for a Patriots defense that has suffered its share of season-ending injuries this year. Warren has practiced every day this week, something he hasn't been able to do in a while.
"I'm very close," Warren declared.
He also revealed that once the season ends, he'll have to have his injured groin "taken care of," likely meaning surgery of some kind, but that for the time being, he's doing everything he can to make himself available to his teammates and coaches in these pivotal final three games of the regular season.
"It's very difficult. It can be frustrating at times. As I mentioned last week, I really have to try to just practice patience. They say 90-percent of the game is mental. I'm pretty mentally tough. It's not an issue. The issue is practicing patience ... and knowing what you have is going to require rest. And I'm not going to be out on the practice field for every snap or in the game for every snap.
"Coach Bill [Belichick],the doctors, and I came up with a legitimate strategy as far as managing this injury, trying to get through the season with it. If I can play, I want to play. That's my mentality."
If he does return this Sunday or at all this season, Warren said he'd be limited only to participating in obvious running situations.
"Honestly, I've had to swallow my pride and selfishness as a player to tell the coaches that, 'Hey, I'm really no good to you on the passing downs. I won't be the rest of the season. I can help on the run … that's pretty much going to be my role."
It's a role with which the Patriots will need Warren's help against the Raiders and their talented backfield tandem of veteran Justin Fargasand rookie Darren McFadden.
"Both of those guys run hard," Warren observed. "Fargas has done well for them. McFadden … his injury probably limited his progression this year. But he's still a dangerous back and can do a lot of things. I think we've really got to be cautious of him because of his history with the Wildcat at Arkansas. Just being aware of him and the many things they like to do with him."
Warren was also asked about the status of his teammate, quarterback Matt Cassel, who's been dealing with the death of his father this week.
"He seems to be doing pretty good," Warren replied. "The guys in the locker room have really supported him. I expect Matt to be Matt [on Sunday]. What he's dealing with is a difficult thing. We're in it with him. He has all our support and the coaching staff's as well."
O'Connell steps up
Cassel's understudy, rookie Kevin O'Connell, spoke briefly to the media prior to Friday's practice at San Jose State University.
On Wednesday, when Cassel was excused to deal with his family matters, O'Connell took more of the reps in practice. That's about all that's changed for him this week, as far as his preparation for this weekend's game against the Raiders is concerned.
"I mean, more importantly, every week, I've got to be prepared because I am one snap away. It didn't really change much other than the mental reps turned into being under center and calling the plays and stuff. I'm just focusing on the game plan like I always would."
He's had to do so, however, with a heavy heart.
"More than anything, it's just been about being there for Matt as a friend and a teammate, at the same time, preparing to play a really good Raiders team," O'Connell continued. "As a team, we've just tried to come together, but it doesn't take much because we are such a close group of guys."
What did O'Connell say to Cassel to help boost his spirits?
"You know, it's hard," O'Connell admitted. "We've all lost family members, but when it's something so sudden like that, it hits you in a way you can't imagine. I couldn't really speak from experience and a lot of guys can't. All you can do is say your prayers are with him. I know all of us put our hands out to him and let him know we cared about his situation and we're going to be there for him no matter what."
Cassel returned to the Patriots practice field on Thursday, and O'Connell believes being back with his teammates has helped Cassel deal with his grief.
"He's doing really well," O'Connell added. "He's one of the most mentally strong guys I know. I've learned a lot from him this season. I saw it as an opportunity to kind of give a little back to him. He's given me so much this year. I've just tried to be around him and be there for him.
"It's one of those things that you can't comprehend until it happens to you. It's such a difficult thing to get through, but he's a strong, tough guy. I know football's done him good this week since he's been back. We're just going to continue to be there for him."
Friday Practice Update
On the warmest day of this week in the San Jose area, the Patriots held their final practice in preparation for the Oakland game. Players dressed in helmets, shoulder pads, and sweatpants for the second straight day.
Only three players were missing from action – the same three from yesterday: safety James Sandersand linebackers Tedy Bruschiand Pierre Woods.
The Pats will return to New England early Monday morning, concluding their second 10-day West Coast road trip this season. The general consensus among players and coaches seems to be that this second trip has been a success – even more so because of the experience of having done it back in October in the same location.