Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium, on Thursday, January 13, 2011.
Q: What do you remember about your first trip to the playoffs?
VW: How good you have to play. One blink, it's a one-game season. [If] you lose this one, you go home. The emphasis has been all this time: just remember what we're here for. [If] we lose this game, we can't go back and say, 'Next week, we have to get ready for this because next week would be over. I think everybody understands that. I think everybody is trying and they understand what we're here for. We can't do [anything except] take it one game at a time. Get ready each day. Each day we step on that practice field, we want to walk away knowing that we've gotten better. And when Sunday comes, we have to be ready to play. We've got to expect their best. We've got to prepare for everything. Like I said, with it being a one-game season, we're [likely] to see anything - things that we haven't seen, things that we've seen. We kind of know what they like to do. But on top of that, like I said, with it being a one-game season, you never know. We're trying to just make sure that we have everything covered that we think may happen, that may occur. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't happen, oh well. But, we have to do a real good job of preparing for these guys.
Q: You mention that it's a one game season. There is an urgency; there is a heightened awareness; the adrenaline is flowing a little bit more. But at the same time, when athletes get too hyped up they make mistakes. Is it tough to guard yourself and to stay on an even-keel knowing that there is an urgency?
VW: I think we've been on an even-keel all year. Even though with this being the biggest game of the year this week, I think every day we go in knowing how important each day is. I don't' think we get too high or too low. It was like that all season, and I don't expect for it to be any different now. Even though we're playing in the playoffs, we like to approach it the same way. We always approach the games the same, we hit it hard. We make sure we know what we're doing out there. We make sure we know exactly what's going on. That's the key. If we can't do that, we're in trouble. I think you get a lot of people pumped up, more jacked going through the pregame on game day, so as of right now, I think we're at even-keel. Right now, we're just relaxed, going through our stuff, making our right preparations, getting ready for this game. Come Sunday, I am pretty sure everyone is going to be jacked up, but we've got to make sure we control ourselves because we've got to play football games. You can get in trouble sometimes like that.
Q: What kind of physical challenges does the Jets offensive line and running game bring?
VW: One of the best. You've got two great backs. They're known for powering the rock. The offensive line is known for being physical. The New York Jets are known for having a great running attack. And then you can look at their defense, they're known for being able to stop the run. They are built for playoff games. They are pretty tough when it comes down to LT [Ladainian Tomlinson] and Shonn Greene on top of that. And then, when they do go to passing the ball, you have all those guys you have to worry about. They're put together well. I think all year we've seen them win in close games. But, you know what, I'd rather be on the winning end of those tough games than the other side. A lot of people may say, 'They should've lost this, they should've lost that.' Good teams find a way to win, and that's what they've done. They've worked hard to get to where they are now. We've worked hard to get to where we are now. It's the third time we're going to see each other. We're division rivals. So, we kind of know each other. [We'll] just see how it plays out on Sunday.
Q: What has impressed you the most about the young defensive linemen on your team?
VW: I think the biggest thing for those guys is understanding this is business, this is professional. You don't wake up every morning and have to go to a class. You are waking up [and] going to work. I think all year it's been - at times it may be tough - but they understood early what this game was all about. This is business. We expect for you to be on time. We expect for you to know what you're doing on the field. I think all of our rookies and all of our young guys have done a great job with it this year. The quicker you can establish what you're here for, the better you'll be. And I think those guys established early on what exactly they were here for and that's to help us win ball games. They've done a pretty good job with that.
Q: Do you ever replay that run that Ray Rice made in last year's playoff game and say, 'No way that's going to happen again?'
VW: No, we're a different ball club. This is a different team. Last year was last year. I don't pay attention from the last game of this season until my rookie year because every year is different. The only thing you can do is prepare well. If you prepare well, you'll step on the field [and] you'll have a lot of confidence in yourself and your teammates, if you prepare well. And that's our main goal - going out and practicing and making sure that we walk off that field knowing we gave it our all, knowing that we know what we're doing and we can move on to a different area the next day. So, that's we're we are right now. We're getting better as a team, and this is what it's going to have to be. We're going to have to continue to get better, and hopefully on Sunday, it'll pay off for us.
Q: What has been the biggest improvement on run defense in the second half of the season? The numbers are pretty drastic from the first half to the second half.
VW: I think everybody's just been doing their job - focusing [on it], preparing a little bit more, watching more film. The more you play, the better you get. I'm a believer in the more reps you get in practice or in the game, the better you'll be. And I think some of it came with that. Early on in the year, our run phase was kind of crazy. Just seeing guys not understand the defense the way it needed to be played. So, as time went on, we got better and better and better. I think now, we're sitting back and can say, 'Okay, we've gotten better, we have to continue to get better.' We just can't sit back and say, 'Oh, we're good.' I think it's just everyone knowing their role, knowing exactly where they need to be and when they need to be there and preparation. I think everything we do can revolve around preparing. If you prepare well, if you do that, you'll be okay.
Q: What kind of role have you had to play because there are so many young guys on the defense?
VW: I don't know if I'm a player, I'm a coach, I'm a mentor - you name it. Being a leader and being around this team for seven years, I kind of understand it to a point where if a guy has a question and Bill [Belichick], your coaches and staff are in meetings, they can easily turn around and ask any of these guys who have been around. It's been kind of fun, though, because a lot of years you don't this. People will be shy to come up and ask a Tom Brady, Deion Branch or Matt Light who have been playing this game for so long, to ask them questions. But, I don't think these guys are shy at all. They come up and they ask questions because they want to get it right because they know how important it is to us. So, they ask questions. I'm always talking, and teaching, and coaching and mentoring, watching film, we do it. I'm proud to be someone like that that they can actually look up and ask me for questions and I can give them the right advice. It's been kind of fun.
Q: When you were a young player who was your mentor?
VW: When I came here it was Seymour of course on the defensive line, Willie McGinest, [Mike] Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Tyrone Poole, the list goes on and on, Rodney Harrison. It goes on and on. So, it was easy for me to come in and pick those guys' brains. I was never the shy type. I always wanted to know why we were doing that and where did I need to be and what can I do to get better. All those guys taught me how to be a profession. They taught me what it takes to be a leader. A lot of people may think that you have to talk all the time to be a leader. That's not what it's all about. If you come to work every day and everybody sees you working your tail off, you have no choice but to lead by example. I think the one guy that stands out in my mind is Rodney Harrison. He played this game to a whole other level. I've never seen a guy who played this many years in the league and he goes out on the scout team for offense or he goes out on the scout team for a special teams period, just to give a look. It was easy when I saw that guy doing it. It was like, 'You know what? He didn't talk much, he came to work.' He came to work and you know what? He's probably one of the best safeties to ever play the game and it's because of that, not from his playing. His playing speaks for itself, but the person that he was in this locker room and on the practice field means a lot to me.