Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 22, 2010.
Q: Fourteen games into the season, how do you feel about how things are in that locker room?
VW: I think the locker room is great. I think the guys we have here are here for one reason: to win. They love football and obviously all year we've been through tough games and better games, weather games, you name it. And I think everybody has done a great job of coming together and playing as a team. That's been the story for us all year. I think guys have really got it. The focus level is where it needs to be and the commitment level is where it needs to be. We can win a lot of ball games around here if that continues to get better. That's where we're at right now with leadership and I think it's not just a couple guys. You can't say it's just the captains. Everybody in that locker room plays a role; we all play a role. Just because you see some of us more on TV or in the media or in the paper, that doesn't mean we don't have more leaders. I think from the coaches down, it starts everywhere and that's how we've been playing. That's been a non-issue for us this year.
Q: What has held the defense together with the tremendous amount of injuries you've had?
VW: I think [it's] everybody just knowing their role. You never know when you'll have to go in the ball game and have to step up. You never know, but we say, 'when your number is called, you have to be ready to respond.' I think all year we've had close calls with some guys and players and the people that stepped in their roles played very well. It's just preparation, just knowing what you're on the field doing. You can't put somebody out there on the field if they don't know what they're doing. I think guys really took to that this year. Like I said, focus level, the commitment, trust and honesty are some things we've been very, very, very fortunate with this year. Everybody has to know their role and they do.
Q: You have to especially since you've played so many spots on that line.
VW: Oh yeah.
Q: What's that been like?
VW: It's fun. It's very fun, but at the same time it's challenging. I play every position on the defensive line. Bill [Belichick] has confidence in me going out and playing it. It's different at times. It's very different at times, especially when every week your opponent is different. You don't play the same team over and over. So it gets challenging, but I love challenges. I think for me to go out and play different positions, it just shows the young guys that if you commit to what you're doing, you'll be ok. I can't let them down just because I'm playing defensive end or tackle or nose tackle. I don't get a bone if I miss a play or have a bad play or miss a tackle. We all hold each other accountable. I think the young guys see that and understand that if I can go out and play whatever position, they can focus in on theirs, lock in on theirs. So far so good.
Q: Jerod Mayo was saying that the biggest change he can see in the defense since your last loss in Cleveland is finishing games. How have you guys been able to finish six in a row?
VW: I'll tell you what: Cleveland was a wakeup call for us. They put it to us. We had a gut check. I don't think there is one guy who left that game happy with anything he did that day. And I think we came together as a team and started putting more emphasis on little things. It's not the big things; it's all about the little things because the little things take care of the big things in the end. Ever since then I think we've just been focused in and one of our goals has been finishing, watching more film, watching to see what our opponents do in certain situations. And I think everyone is doing it, not just certain guys, everyone. It helps us as a team when we are able to do that and go out on the field and have the confidence - if we're behind, if we're ahead, the tendencies that these teams [have]. It gives us an edge as a team and we've been winning like that, so we have to do more of it. It gets tougher and tougher. Late in the season - December - you have to be able to win ballgames, whatever it takes to win. People are banged up all around the league. It's not just here; it's everywhere. It's the nature of the game, so you can't feel sorry for yourself right now. You have to do what's best for the team and for yourself, and that's you're health. With the sickness and everything going around, you have to be a professional right now, so take care of your bodies and find a way to win on Sundays. That's always been a goal of ours and more importantly, it's definitely a goal of ours this week. I think this game is probably a big game for us. Every game is a big one. Especially being a division game, it's a very big game for us.
Q: You had a couple penalties in this last game, but then came up with some huge plays. I know you always try to stay away from penalties, but how much did those penalties tell you that you had to try to come up with something big?
VW: Well, the penalties - one was a bonehead penalty: the offsides. That's a dumb penalty. And the face mask, I was kind of caught between a rock and a hard spot right there, but it wasn't anything intentional that I would try to grab the facemask. Just reaching out and with the running back running and lowering his head, I got a part of it. And the position that I was in, I couldn't really get my hands out of it quick enough. Those you can kind of live with, but penalties are penalties. I look at them [and] they're penalties, even though you don't try to make them. But when you do, it's costly. That's one thing that I try to strive for: no penalties. And I got two in one game this year. I was pretty upset about that. I was trying to go the whole season without one, and obviously that didn't end up [that way], but as long as I end up with two, I'm fine.
Q: What is the mindset at the end of games when you guys are trying to stop a team on a final drive? You have been able to do that a few times this year, whereas last year that wasn't the case last year as much?
VW: I think confidence. I think everyone is just trusting one another on the field. Like I said, we try to put ourselves in that position through the week, not just on Sundays, so we'll be kind of used to the situation that we're in. and I think guys have done a great job of that this year, just looking at certain situations and being on top of them. Until the whistle blows, we always feel like we have a chance - always - because of the preparation and what we put into the game through the week. We always have confidence. That's one thing we're not lacking; we're not lacking confidence. This is a very confident group. We need to be [confident] because we put in a lot of hard work. We work hard from the offseason all the way until now. We've worked our tails off and it hasn't been easy. It hasn't been easy, but one thing it has been is fun. That's how it needs to be. If you can have fun doing what you love and be able to get the job done the way you need to get it done, positive things will happen. We've been fortunate this year.
Q: This week there is a lot on the line with a division game and the potential to secure home field advantage in the playoffs.
VW: You know, every week we say, 'Win', and that's how we're looking at it. We're not looking past Buffalo. We want to just start with a great practice today and just finish. Whatever happens after the game happens, but hopefully we have the 'W'. That's how we've been taking it; we take it one game at a time and one practice at a time and we're going to continue to do that until everything is said and done. And after that, we'll see where we're at, but right now it's all about Buffalo.
Q: Have you always had pass rush moves or is that something you've added to your game this year?
VW: Every year I try to add something and that's always an area that needs work. [In the] offseason I always devote time to that area. You never know when you're going to be in certain situations - nickel, dime, whatever it may be - so that's something that we work on all the time. Bill [Belichick] and Coach Pep [Johnson], we always talk about how we want to rush guys and moves that work or moves we don't want to use. It's always there. We're always working on it from now until the offseason; it never stops, especially pass rushing because that's...a lot of times I don't see a lot of one-on-ones from the run game, pass game, you slide, so you have to be able to figure out how can you get push in the pocket, because sometimes you can't just come scot-free; you have to work a little bit. That's what I think pass rushing is all about: working. The more you work, the more success you have.
Q: How have you been able to handle all the extra playing time? You must be awfully tired at the end of the game. Is it more so this year?
VW: No. I've played quite a few snaps around here. I'm well conditioned. I feel I can play however long the coach needs me to play. Conditioning has never been an issue for me. I was never a guy that was known for being out of shape. Everybody gets winded here and there, but it's different than getting winded and being out of shape. That's something I take pride in: being able to go the long haul. You never know when you'll need to - a couple overtime games. Just look at the season this year - not just ours but around the league, how many overtime games we've had. Teams are playing great. The NFL is very, very intense this year and teams are getting a lot better. Good teams are starting to find ways to win. My thing is I have to make sure that if we do go into overtime or if I do have to play 90 snaps, I can do that. It's not going to be easy; I'll tell you that. It's tough. But I'm positive about it because I work hard on it.
Q: It seems like Gerard Warren has kind of flown under the radar for you this season. What has he done for this team? It seems like he's been pretty amazing out there pretty much from day one.
VW: You know, he's a 10-year vet and that's one guy that came here with all the intentions of helping this ball club win. [He's] a great player and a great person and what he's done for us has been great, from his leadership, playing skills, you name it. However he can help, he's helping. Sometimes I find myself asking him questions and he'll kind of look at me crazy like, 'Man, I just got here.' But it's just a respect factor. I mean, he's been around the game for a long time. There are some things I take away from everybody's game - rookies, vets, people around the league. I look at film. When I don't need to look at film, I'm looking at film because I'm always trying to find an edge and that's a guy that I have seen a lot of film on. If he was out in Denver, Cleveland or Oakland, I've seen a lot of film on him because it's somebody's game I like.
Q: Can you talk about balancing work and family with the game on Sunday and leaving on Christmas Day?
VW: It's tough with the holidays. I have kids - 13, seven and 16 months. My oldest understands. My seven-year-old, she doesn't understand; 'Why do you have to go to work, Daddy?' It is what it is; this is my business. It's tough, but at the same time, this is my job. I will always put my job first to provide for my family and that's exactly what it is. I think the young guys have to understand how important this week is for us, not just because we're going to Buffalo and it's Christmas. We have to do a real good job of staying focused and just eliminating everything else around it, and coming back home on Sunday with a 'W'. That's our main goal, so we're going to do our best. We're going to work hard and there's no doubt in my mind that we're going to put everything we have into this game and everybody's focus level is going to be where it needs to be on Sunday to walk away with a 'W'. And we can enjoy Christmas after that - a day later.