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"The Patriot way" certainly rubbed off on Mark Anderson in his one year in New England.
The Buffalo Bills' defensive end said his career was transformed by spending the 2011 season in the environment fostered by coach Bill Belichick.
"I learned how to work," Anderson said Friday. "We worked hard every day. I felt like that helped my career and took my game to another level, just the preparation.
"As the years go on you mature as a player. I felt going there, the expectations and standards are so high, I felt like it could help my game and focus so I could get more serious about my craft.
Anderson had plenty of success in his lone season with the Patriots, finishing with 10 sacks and making a Super Bowl appearance.
The Bills enticed him to switch sides in the rivalry with a four-year, $19.5 million contract in the offseason.
As he prepares to face his old team Sunday in a huge AFC East showdown at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Anderson's made a favorable impression on his new team through three weeks.
"He's done a great job, I'll tell you what," defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt said. "The thing is, he's been as good on the practice field and in the meeting room as he's been on Sundays. I didn't know that much about him [before he signed], but he's been solid in all areas on and off the field. He's been a pleasure to coach."
Anderson came to the Bills with a reputation as a pass-rush specialist, but he's proven to be more than just that. He's played 143 of 206 defensive snaps, 69 percent for the year. After taking just 50 percent in the season opener (34 of 68), that number has risen to 81 percent and 76 percent, respectively, in the past two weeks.
"Other people expected him to be a one-way player. I don't think I ever expected that. I thought he could play the run from what I saw and what he played against. He's done a good job coming in and learning the entire system and how he fits in the run game," coach Chan Gailey said.
"Schematically, he's fit in well," Wannstedt said. "Everybody talks about his size, but speed makes up for a lot, particularly in our scheme of defense. He's been a good fit."
The Bills have allowed 187 yards on 50 carries to opposing teams' feature backs, an average of 3.7 yards per rush.
"It was nothing that I wanted to prove, it's just something that had to be done," Anderson said of improving his play against the run. "They brought me in here to be more than a pass rusher, so that's what I'm trying to do."
Anderson has showed his versatility in other ways, namely by dropping into coverage. That's a skill he first worked on during his one season with Houston in 2010, when he frequently stood up playing outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. He also played some coverage last season with the Patriots.
"He's smart enough to be able to understand the whole package. I think a lot of stuff they've done at New England and places he's been, he's retained a lot," Wannstedt said.
The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder also has impressive athleticism and seemingly boundless energy. During training camp, he'd be on a stationary bike during special teams drills.
"He's got so much strength and so much explosion," Wannstedt said. "He plays as hard as any defensive lineman I've been around. He makes plays. Some of them aren't pretty, but he's what I'd call a playmaker."
Anderson does have an array of somewhat unusual pass-rush moves, but they're effective. He's been credited with five quarterback hurries this season according to Pro Football Focus, which tracks every NFL snap.
"I go out there and try to give a good effort. I try to be technique sound, mentally ready on and off the field and I try to play fast," he said. "I feel I'm developing pretty well, but I've still got a long way to go to be an elite player. Each game, each week, I just try to get better. For this week I'm just trying to be a little bit better than I was last week."
Anderson started his career as a fifth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 2006. He had a career-high 12 sacks in his rookie year, but that number dropped to just one sack in 2008 before he was released by Chicago after four games in 2010.
He signed with Houston the day after his release and finished the season there before signing with New England last year.
Anderson said watching New England quarterback Tom Brady prepare each week was an inspiration.
"He's a hard worker, man. He practices as a Pro Bowl player, as a leader. That's the kind of the guy he is," Anderson said. "His preparation is on another level. That's why he still plays on a high level. When you see the outcome, he's putting in that work to be successful."

email: jskurski@buffnews.com