INDIANAPOLIS -- Patriots linebacker Tracy White is known best for his ability on special teams. There's no doubt that when it comes to covering kicks, White is one of the best in the business. White was second on the team in special teams tackles (14) and also played on the "core four" special teams units in 2011 for the Patriots.
While typically known for his role in the "third phase," Tracy White actually stepped into a defensive role at times this year. White played a season high 64 snaps against the Eagles, and also helped make the game-sealing deflection (that turned into a Jerod Mayo interception) against the Redskins.
During media access to players this morning at the University Place Conference Center in downtown Indianapolis, I asked White about the increased role he has seen thus far in 2011. White remained modest, attributing his increased playing time to hard work and film study more than anything.
"I just studied hard - my work ethic and just paying attention to details. This team holds you a lot more accountable than other teams I've been on. So it's study, hard work, and looking and the leaders and seeing what they do."
The Patriots could play a lot more four-man fronts against the Giants on Sunday, and I White could see a lot more playing time as an every-down linebacker.
Nonetheless, there's no question that White's biggest value to the Patriots comes as a special teams player. I asked him about his special teams play, and the values that the coaches place on it. White admitted that he's "been labeled a special teams player throughout [his] career" but that it was something that he can "take pride in" and "set goals" himself in.
Because of White's skill and experience as a special teams player, I asked him if he saw himself as a leader.
"Yeah, I do my 'leadership thing' by showing more than talking. I'll say certain things when I can and [share] my experience. But I'm really the type of person who shows [by example] rather than doing too much talking. Things that I know, I will tell, just to help my team. Whatever I can do to help special teams out I do - I talk, do my hitting, do whatever I have to do."
Following Super Bowl XLVI against the Giants, White, 30, will hit free agency. In his two years with the Patriots, White has proven to be a player the Patriots can rely on - and not just on special teams. I'd expect him to be back in New England yet again in 2012.