ORCHARD PARK, New York — Marcell Dareus is getting back in the headlines, this time for the right reasons.
After facing two separate arrests this offseason, the Buffalo Bills defensive tackle is beginning to consistently play up to his first-round draft pick expectations. Dareus had a career-best three sacks in Buffalo's 17-14 win over Detroit on Sunday and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
"I don't really feel any different, just really having fun," Dareus said. "Just let everything roll off my back, ignore a lot of what everybody's saying, just kind of play my game and not let anybody and anything get in my head."
It's that workmanlike approach that has Dareus refocused and back on track after his tumultuous offseason. The 2011 draft's third overall pick was arrested twice in May; on May 2 he was arrested for possession of synthetic marijuana and he was charged with several violations following an alleged drag racing incident May 30 where Dareus crashed his car into a tree near a busy intersection.
Dareus missed the rest of Buffalo's voluntary practices following his second arrest and returned with a determination to make amends with his play on the field. So far, he has.
Dareus is part of a pass rush that has the Bills tied for the NFL lead in sacks with 17 through five games. Following his three-sack performance against the Lions, Dareus leads the Bills in sacks with five.
"For him to really come in here and focus on football speaks tremendously about the type of person he is and a lot about his character," defensive end Manny Lawson said. "He came here to work and that's what he's actually doing, he's putting that on film and everybody can see it. He's putting it out there for the world to see that Marcell Dareus, No. 99, is here to work, here to play and here to help us win."
Bills coach Doug Marrone has also applauded Dareus' approach to begin the year.
"We've had zero issues. He's worked hard in the weight room. He's worked hard on the practice field, all of those things," Marrone said. "From that standpoint, I'm proud of him. He's doing what he should do to be a pro and that's what you have to do in this league."
Dareus' performance against Detroit was even more impressive when you factor in the absence of fellow defensive tackle Kyle Williams, Dareus' mentor and teammate. Williams missed the Lions game due to a knee injury, forcing Dareus to play 92 percent of the team's snaps on defense — his highest playing percentage this season.
With Williams out, Dareus felt compelled to raise his game up to another level.
"I've got to represent," Dareus said. "That's my other half. We're salt and pepper. We're going to do the best we can to shake 'em up. ... Knowing Kyle's not there, of course I feel like I have to try to overcompensate on my end and just try to do the best I can."
The Bills will need another strong effort from Dareus if they hope to defeat the visiting New England Patriots in a pivotal division game on Sunday. Both teams have a share of the division lead at 3-2, and Tom Brady and the Patriots have been susceptible at times this season against strong pass rushes.
"Brady's a pretty smart guy," Dareus said. "He knows exactly what he wants to do with his offense, how he wants to speed 'em up and slow 'em down so there's so many ways you can approach the game. I'm always excited to play against him, he's got such knowledge of the game. I just can't wait to see what he's going to throw at us."
NOTES: Cornerback Ron Brooks returned to practice on a limited basis after suffering a scary neck injury on Sunday. Guard Chris Williams (back), defensive tackle Kyle Williams (knee), linebacker Nigel Bradham (knee), safety Da'Norris Searcy (knee), running back Fred Jackson (ankle), linebacker Brandon Spikes (ribs) and safety Aaron Williams (wrist) were also limited.
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