Lions’ Larry Warford a blockbuster hit in rookie season

After 10-hour days of lifting, sitting through meetings, watching film, blocking Ndamukong Suh and picking veteran offensive linemen's brains, Lions rookie right guard Larry Warford needs to briefly escape football.

He started playing bass in 2011, but at the beginning of his first NFL training camp this July, he decided to pick up a guitar and now plays Foo Fighters and Nirvana on his nightly set list.

"I go home and lose track of time," Warford said, adding he sends videos of his music to his friends. "There was one day I spent like three and a half hours just sitting there playing songs I know now."

Whatever Warford does to keep his mind right, the Lions need him to continue because so far he's been a 330-pound diamond in the rough.

And aside from his guitar sessions, the 22-year-old's life centers on football.

"I don't have a family here. I don’t have a girlfriend. I don't have kids or anything," he said. "That's all I have is these guys, and that's all I focus on. This is my life.

"I don't have school any more. This is all I'm worried about -- this team and this O-line and trying to do my part to make us successful."

Through four games this season, based on Pro Football Focus' analysis, the third-round pick out of Kentucky has been the 12th-best guard in the NFL and seventh-best right guard.

In the Lions' 40-32 win over the Bears Sunday, running back Reggie Bush ran for 139 yards on 18 carries, many of which went right behind Warford. On Bush's 37-yard touchdown run, he ran through a hole opened by Warford and center Dominic Raiola. Warford is also part of an offensive line that has allowed just three sacks this season, fewest in the NFL.

For all the criticism Lions general Martin Mayhew has received for his draft picks that didn't pan out -- Titus Young, Mikel Leshoure and Ronnell Lewis among them -- the Warford selection is one on which he can hang his hat.

While it's far too early to start comparing Warford to great NFL guards, Raiola said he should only continue to improve. "Definitely no steps back," Raiola said.

Warford, a humble 22-year-old from Richmond, Ky., won't take credit for his impressive start, instead crediting his fellow linemen as well as the running backs and coaches.

"It's not just me. It's the whole offensive line," he said. "A lot of the stuff that Reggie was getting good gains on was because of the communication on the whole offensive line.

"Dom is making the calls for me, and I'm like, 'Cool, I'll do that for you.'"

During the week, Warford said he's constantly seeking advice from Raiola and left guard Rob Sims. Nine-year veteran Dylan Gandy, whom Warford beat for a starting job, gives him tips, too.

"Those are vets," Warford said. "They know more than I do, and that means a lot that they're giving me their advice, and I'm really appreciative of that."

Warford's size and strength have helped him be successful early on, but Sims said he is smart, too, and knows exactly what's going on with the game plan every week.

Sims was a fourth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2006, and although he didn't start until Week 15 his rookie season, Sims said he and Warford entered the league in similar situations.

"I think he's doing a lot better than I was at this point," Sims said. "There's going to be some ups and downs for him down the line, and there's stuff he's working through right now, too, but he's doing really well."


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Neil S. Schwartz

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