FOXBOROUGH -- The answer is: Quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Larry Izzo, and defensive end Ty Warren.
The question: Who are the only Patriots to play in every game since the start of the 2003 season?
Brady has appeared in 95 straight games, dating to the 2001 season, and his 94 straight starts rank third in the NFL among quarterbacks behind Green Bay's Brett Favre (246) and Indianapolis's Peyton Manning (142).
Izzo, the special teams captain who seldom sees time with the regular defense, has played in 89 of a possible 90 games since joining the team in 2001.
And then there is Warren, who based on scouting reports when he was coming out of Texas A&M in 2003 is the surprise member of this ironman group. Warren had multiple ankle injuries and a muscle tear in the groin area over his final two college seasons, and some questioned his durability when the Patriots selected him 13th overall.
Yet Warren has answered those questions, as he's yet to miss a game (61) and has strung together 41 straight starts (including playoffs). It's a streak that means a lot to him.
``I take great pride in coming to work each day, and being able to be there for my teammates and the organization," Warren said. ``That's not something I take for granted."
On top of his consistency, Warren is having his best season; he arguably has been the team's top defender.
In statistics tabulated by Patriots coaches, he has a team-high 38 tackles, two more than linebacker Mike Vrabel. In a defensive scheme in which linemen are generally asked to hold up blockers so linebackers are free to make tackles, Warren's high tackle total is one indication of his rising level of play. He also has 2 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries, 2 passes deflected, 1 forced fumble, and 1 fumble recovery.
Playing left end in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme, Warren is most often occupying the gaps on running plays.
``Generally speaking, most offenses run to their right more than their left," coach Bill Belichick explained. ``We see that quite a bit. When we see a team that runs more to their offensive left, the first thing you say to your team is, `Hey fellas, it's a little bit different this week.' You might say that once a year, twice a year."
Opponents have some extra incentive to run toward Warren's side, because if they choose otherwise, they have four-time Pro Bowler Richard Seymour staring them in the face. Belichick noted that ends are usually most effective by having their dominant hand on the inside, which is why Seymour is on the right (his dominant hand is the left), and Warren on the left (his dominant hand is the right).
Warren, Seymour, and nose tackle Vince Wilfork constitute an all-first-round-pick line, and Warren said he's motivated by lining up next to such talented players.
``We feed off each other's energy, we all have different qualities, and we're always asking questions back and forth," he said. ``It makes it a lot easier having those guys beside me."
Warren's other motivation is looking around the league and comparing himself with players at his position, especially those in 3-4 defenses. He's also fared well compared with fellow first-round defensive linemen from the 2003 draft, such as Dewayne Robertson (Jets), Johnathan Sullivan (unemployed), Kevin Williams (Vikings), Jimmy Kennedy (Rams), and William Joseph (Giants). Of the group, no one has appeared in more games than Warren.
``I remember some organizations asking me about my health coming out of A&M, and my response was always that if I could practice or play, I would have been there," Warren said. ``Football is a dangerous game. People get hurt. Right now, God has blessed me that whatever injuries I've had, I've been fortunate to play through them. There is a little luck involved, too."
Now 25, Warren said his comfort level in the Patriots' locker room is ``night and day" from when he arrived in town. A native of Bryan, Texas, he said little in his first few years, but now has a regular television appearance on New England Cable News, and talks openly about his family, such as how he and his wife, Kesha, are expecting their third child in February.
His comfort level has extended to the field as well.
``I'm kind of at the point now where the game is slowing down for me," Warren said. ``It's sort of like when you come in as a freshman and you're just raw. Eventually you grasp the concept of what the coach is trying to get you to do.
``It's a process. And for me, I pride myself on coming to work each day with my hard hat on. That's my approach."
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