Going into his rookie season in 2006 Mark Anderson was angry. He was angry that he was only a fifth-round draft choice of the Chicago Bears. He was angry that he was likely to be little more than a situational pass rusher at defensive end. A prideful player, Anderson held his head high and his shoulders back despite the circumstances. Then came the teasing from the vets and they rode him hard.
"We gave him a hard time as a rookie and he withstood it," said former Bears and Bills guard Ruben Brown, who played with Anderson in Chicago in 2006 and 2007. "He never back talked. He was respectable, but he's a prideful guy and stood his ground. He put in hard work."
Anderson wisely chose to channel the frustration of his situation with the Bears into production on the field.
"They did the whole initiation thing," said Anderson. "That was probably the toughest time as a rookie. They were at my throat. (Ruben) and Olin Kreutz they were at me every day. It gave me a lot of motivation. I was already mad with the whole draft having to deal with that coming in so I used that as added motivation and it helped."
Despite being a situational pass rusher, Anderson logged 12 sacks his rookie year in helping Chicago win the NFC title and advance to the Super Bowl.
Brown, who went to eight of his nine Pro Bowls with Buffalo, saw then just how advanced Anderson's talent as a pass rusher was.
"When he came in as a rookie his pass rushing skills were way more advanced than any of the other rookies that came in," Brown told Buffalobills.com. "Tommie Harris was drafted way ahead of him and a real good pass rusher, but he didn't have the ability to torque his body the way that Mark can. Mark can really elude punches and really give offensive tackles a tough angle to try to put their hands on him. And on top of that he's fast."
Anderson believes being so polished with his pass rush techniques at such a young age was a byproduct of two main factors.
"Number one it's a blessing from God and I work hard every day every offseason I'm always working on my technique and trying to become a better pass rusher," he said. "That's one thing I do. I work hard and work at it so that's probably why I have the success that I do."
As a full-time starter the following season, Anderson didn't quite have the same measure of success in terms of quarterback takedowns with just five on the year. He hasn't been a full-time starter since.
Even last year in New England he was a rotational pass rusher until Andre Carter was lost for the season due to injury. The 2011 season was his first double-digit sack season since his rookie year as he had 10.
Brown, who considers Anderson a friend despite the teasing he participated in back in 2006, isn't surprised the defensive end experienced sack success in New England.
"He's got certain moves that he'll run, but he's got a lot that he can run well. Some players only have like one move. Bruce (Smith) had a ton of moves and could do a lot of things. Mark is kind of that way and with his speed and agility he can really give you a lot of different moves that are good. Not weak moves that you can stop and say, 'Ahh I've seen that.' He's got a lot that he can run. He just has a natural knack of knowing how to get around guys and you can't teach that."
That's why Anderson is in the mix to start at right defensive end for Buffalo as he's part of a three-way competition with Chris Kelsay and Shawne Merriman.
"We've got a great group of guys. Everybody is capable of being a starter. Everybody is capable of making plays," said Anderson. "Me personally I'm just looking at it as a way to just get better, just trying to learn the defense and take it one day at a time."
As far as a certain Pro Bowl guard that went against Anderson every day in practice for two seasons is concerned, he likes Anderson's odds to land the job.
"He's just so elusive," said Brown. "Phil (Hansen) was slippery. You could put your hands on him and he disappears. With Mark it's hard to even put your hands on him."