Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium, on Thursday, January 6, 2011.
Q: With no opponent to prepare for, what was practice like yesterday? You were in full pads, right?
Q: Was it an intense experience, maybe even more so than a usual practice?
VW: With us not having a game this week, I think we're trying to stay in our regular routine - going out to practice and putting us in pads and everything - just so we don't lose a lot. [It's] understandable, understandable. I think we got some good work done yesterday. I really think we got better as a football team yesterday and we need to continue that today. I'm looking forward to another good practice today and hopefully that will be enough with the guys that are banged up. At this point in the year, you have a lot of guys with all types of injuries and bumps and bruises so we need to make sure that we can get those taken care of. [We're] looking for another good today, so hopefully we can get it done.
Q: The last time you were in this position was 2007 and it didn't end the way you wanted it to. Does that still fuel you?
VW: You know what, every year is a new year and I think that's one thing that we've done a good job of this year is putting the past behind us. Guys that were here for that, we don't think about it. But, at the same time, we hate to lose and we were on the losing end of the stick. We have to prepare better. I think with a new year and a new season, [some] guys don't know what playoffs are all about. We have to do a real good job of getting guys ready to play whatever football team it may be. Whoever it is, it's going to be a good team. Like I said, we let the past be the past and hopefully we can get better each day. That's our goal: being a better football team each day. I think we started yesterday and going back out there again today is a big step for us. We can't leave the field today thinking we took a step back. We'll do everything in our will power not to allow that to happen. I think, [for] everybody, the focus level is there. I think everyone understands what is at stake and [are] able to take it one game at a time. I'm pretty sure everybody is going to be looking at this week to see who is playing and who we'll face. Whoever it is, it's going to be a tough matchup for us, so hopefully we can get the job done.
Q: Early in the year, you guys weren't getting a lot of respect, but now it seems to be the other way around and you're the favorites, talking about it being you guys against the field. Do you guys, as veterans, need to reign in the young guys a little bit?
VW: No, I mean, we've got a sign actually going in and out of this building saying, 'Don't believe the hype and don't fuel it,' and I think it's a prime example now. All year, we've [had] some bumps and bruises, some tough roads. I think as a team, we grew. We've gotten better. That's one thing we have to continue to do. Everyone understands exactly what their role is, how we need to approach each week, each day. Bye week is bye week, but at the same time, there are things that we can clean up as a ball club. It's about the New England Patriots. It's not about anybody else. But we grew as a team. We don't pay attention to outside noise. We always understand that if we play as a team and go out and practice well, we'll be okay. There were two times that we didn't do that this year and we were on the losing end of that stick. Trust me, you've got a bunch of guys in this locker room that hate to lose - hate to lose. I'm one of them and I'm very competitive on the practice field and in games and whatever we may do in life, I think in general, just so competitive. The young guys are the same way. We all love football, but at the same time, we have to be able to take it one day at a time, especially now. Without a game this week, we definitely have to take it one game at a time and day-by-day right now because we need to get better as a ball club and that's exactly what we'll try to do now.
Q: In the first eight games of the season you were giving up 24.5 points a game. Since then, it's been 15 and some change. That's a big difference. What has been the difference?
VW: The focus level. I think the belief in guys stepping onto the field and believing in each other is more than anything [else]. When we left the Cleveland game, it wasn't a pleasant flight coming home. The meetings weren't good. I don't think anyone slept that night. It was just a bad, bad feeling and we don't want that feeling anymore. I think everybody has done everything they could not to allow that to happen. Every week, it's about practice. I think from that game on, we had the best practices in a row that you could name from that day on. So, it doesn't stop here. Like I said, we need another good one today, and then coming back next week, and going forward, we need great practices. I think everybody understands and sees that if we go out and practice well and prepare well, on Sundays, we do pretty good. I think that's probably been one of the biggest things we've done, is [having] been able to practice well and actually have a confidence to go onto the field believing we've played the game already. That's going to have to continue with us and, like I said, we'll do everything in our will power to make it feel that way because the last thing we want to do is step on the field today and walk away really not happy with our performance on the field today. It starts with practice, so that's a big goal for us: to leave today feeling pretty good about getting better as a team.
Q: What do you want to accomplish on the field in your position?
VW: Win, point blank. Our goal is to win. Everybody has a job to do. I don't care if you're a quarterback, receiver, defensive lineman, linebacker, whoever that may be, a kicker, you know what your job is. At the end of the day if you do your job, hopefully we can win.
Q: What does your particular position require?
VW: Hard work. Like I said, it's a job. I'm a defensive lineman. My job is to stop the ball carrier, whoever it may be. Defensive players, their job is to stop the offense from scoring points. [On] offense, you need to score points. That's your job. Not getting into any particulars, my job is to tackle. When I can't do that, it's a problem. At the end of the day, if you do all those things and you do your job and concentrate on your job, you have a real good chance of being successful.
Q: Aren't there some plays where you're successful just because you tied up some people and created an opportunity for someone else? Isn't that part of what you do out there?
VW: Yeah, sometimes. Sometimes I get doubled; sometimes I don't. My job is to recognize what is going on and do my job. Like you said, sometimes I do tie up guys. Sometimes other guys get tied up, and one thing we talk about around here is, when you're one-on-one, you have to win those battles, pass rushing or in the running game. I might see a little more double teams, but trust me, I see my share of one-on-ones, too. When I get those blocks, I have to be able to win. That's my main goal. That's my focus. My biggest goal of all is to win. I don't care if I walk away without any stats. If the New England Patriots win, that's probably the biggest accomplishment of all.
Q: The team has a lot of new defensive lineman. How can the team expect them to get up to speed so quickly?
VW: It's tough. It's very tough coming into a system like this and being successful right away. It's very tough. At times it's not perfect. At times I go out and do some things that I look at [on] film and think, 'What was I thinking?' It's very tough in a scheme like this. But these guys, they get it. Me being a pretty accountable guy, I want to make sure that these guys coming in that are going to help [us] know how we do things. If that's watching more film or staying after and working with some guys, that's what it is. Whatever they need for us to be successful, that's what we're willing to give. I think all year we've been working very, very hard all around, every position. Some things [that] we don't do a lot of, we spend a little bit more time on. At this point in time, there are some things that you can do a lot better, some things that we haven't done all year but we did in camp, some of those things might come up now. We have to approach it and we have to know what we have to do when those things come up. But, these guys, like I said, you're professional. When you're at this level, you're professional. It's very hard to come and be successful at this level, at this time especially, on a team like [ours with] the schemes that we run. It's pretty tough, but we manage to do it. It's hard work. That's all it is: hard work paying off.
Q: What was your reaction when you saw the flag on the ground after your first sack this past Sunday?
VW: When I did hit him and saw the flag, I thought about the quarterback and not knowing if it was helmet-to-helmet [and not] knowing going in if he dropped his head a little bit. In the moment you kind of figure that they're going to try and protect players. I understand that, especially when it comes down to quarterbacks, that's a whole other league in itself. I'm very disappointed with the flag, but at the same time, I have to keep my composure, which I did - which I think I did a real good job of - and continue to play. And you know what? A couple of plays later, I got another one. That just goes to show you how quick things can go from bad to good. That's just something you have to roll with at the time.
Q: How much do you want to wash the taste from the Baltimore playoff game from last year out of your mouth?
VW: Like I said, all year, what we've done in the past is what we've done in the past. So, I don't think that plays a big factor in what we do the first game, if we see Baltimore or not. Just preparing well, that's our biggest thing. If we prepare well, we're going to be okay. All year we've been doing a pretty decent job of preparing well in practices. It can't change now. I'm very confident in that we're going to go out and prepare well. [I'm] very confident in the guys that we have on the field and our scheme. Whatever we may draw up that week, I'll be confident in it because I know that we're going to have some good practices. We won't allow ourselves to leave the field if we don't have the right practice, so if it calls for staying on the field a little longer, starting some periods over, whatever it may be, whatever it takes for us to leave that field feeling pretty good about what we've done, that's what it's going to take.
Q: Are you going to watch any games this weekend?
VW: Yeah, of course. Oh yeah. I'm looking at some games. I'll probably look at all of them: AFC and NFC. [I'll be] resting up, relaxing with the family. I'm going to enjoy my little time off and be ready to get back to work next week.