By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
FOXBORO Gerard Warren was coming off his first season with the New England Patriots.
It was good, but could have been better.
He wanted more.
And if possible, the 33-year-old veteran would be back; at least, that's what he recalls Patriots head coach Bill Belichick telling him.
"A lot of times when you get that message - 'Don't call us, we'll call you,'" Warren said with a grin, "but he (Belichick) told me, if it was possible for me to be back that he would give me a call. He honored his word and gave me a call."
And now Warren is back in the fold as one of the many talented defensive linemen vying for playing time this season.
Warren, a man of few - but powerful - words, was succinct in describing the competition along the defensive line this season.
"Only the strong will survive," he said.
Which is among the many things he likes about being back with the Patriots.
The competition is thick at his position, obviously.
But as you scan the roster, it's clear that there are a number of players who are battling for prominent roles that, at this point, remain very much up for grabs.
"Everybody is out here working to get better, day-in and day-out," Warren said. "The one thing I like about it; it's always open competition. Not too many positions solidified. You just have to come to work, and the best man win."
And while the signing of Warren was announced on Monday, Belichick made it clear that bringing Warren back was something the Patriots were planning to do for some time.
"It's something that we planned on for a while," Belichick said on Monday. "We delayed it here for a few days. We felt it was the right timing. He did a lot of good things for us last year. I thought he handled himself well on the team."
Warren came to New England after spending the previous three seasons in Oakland where he started every game during the 2008 and 2009 season.
Last season, he appeared in all 16 games (10 starts) and tallied 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
He also developed a strong relationship with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork.
"That was one of the main reasons I wanted to come back as well," Warren said of his friendship with Wilfork. "Was because of the relationship we bonded and built together last year."
That friendship, on and off the field, was forged with a single-minded desire to win a Superbowl - a goal the Pats fell short of achieving after a 28-21 playoff loss to the New York Jets.
New England's early playoff exit only fueled Warren's desire to return as a Patriot.
"If you fail, do you stop working or do you try and succeed and become better?" Warren said. "Point blank, we didn't succeed on our mission last year, our goal. We get an opportunity to try and do it again this year."
Warren has an "unfinished business" mentality this season, and he'll get a chance to take care of it with the Patriots - the only team Warren apparently gave serious consideration playing for this season.
When asked about his other options for this season, Warren replied, "I told my agent, call me after you talk to New England."