New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork addresses the media during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday, December 30, 2009. Wilfork was selected to his second Pro Bowl.
VW: It's an honor to make my second Pro Bowl. As a football player, that is something that you may not set up as a goal, but everybody in the back of their mind has it as a goal of theirs, even if they say or don't say it - what it means to be a Pro Bowler. I am very thankful and happy to be chosen for my second one. It's an honor and a lot said, not just by mouth but just by the way you play the game, the people you play with, the coaches that coach you, coaches that coach against you, your teammates, your friends, your fans. It's just a lot said when you go out there and put a lot of hard work into what you do and the passion you have for what you do. I thank my fans, my coaches, my teammates and everybody that knows me. [Everybody that] knows I play this game always with a chip on my shoulder because of the passion I have for it, and hard work pays off. I continue to play hard no matter what the situation may be, but that is just something to me, that's the personality that I have. It's something down deep in me that my father and my mother taught me, is that if you're going to do something do it the right way. I try to do that and I teach my kids the same thing. It's an honor and it's a privilege to be recognized with the elite at my level in this game.
Q: The four guys your team is sending - yourself, Logan [Mankins], Tom Brady and Wes Welker, Wes was undrafted and Tom goes in the sixth round, you were projected as a top ten but had to sit there, Logan was in the end of the fist round. What does that say about this team and about the way you four represent this team?
VW: I think that's a lot of leadership right there. There are a lot of guys that come in day in and day out putting a lot of work in, [who are] happy [about] putting a lot of work in and continue to do it on and off the field. It's just amazing how you can see things with guys like that. This team has a lot of leaders on it, don't get me wrong, Logan, Tom, Wes, Randy [Moss], Ty Warren, and Jerod [Mayo] coming into his own. The list goes on and on. For you to do the right thing and play hard and get recognized for it, that's, like I said, a goal, but really it's not a goal. You lead by example and I think all of us do. We don't really have any big mouths on this team. That's just the way we do things. I have a lot of respect for my teammates, especially the ones that have made it and I am very happy to be in it with these guys. Like I said, it's an honor to be playing with the elite; you can't get any better than that. It's an honor to be selected with four of my guys - it's cool.
Q: How much does it mean to you that even though you don't have statistics for what you're asked to do that you can still kind of garner the respect around the league to get something like this?
VW: It's hard. As a football player I want the stats. I want the sacks, I want the tackles and I want the tackles for losses. I want all of that stuff but for the position I play you know I don't get them. To be recognized at my position with the elite that says enough. I get satisfaction when I face guys that congratulate me on plays or at the end of the game telling me what a great ball player I am. I get satisfaction from that. A lot of guys I face in this league that got elected with me on the AFC side, a lot of them I see, especially offensive linemen. We have fun, but at the end of the day it's hard for a nose tackle to get the recognition. But I think now people are starting to see and understand the position as a nose tackle and I think that is why you are starting to see more nose tackles being selected because if it's going off of sacks [then] you won't have a nose tackle. Everybody would be a defensive tackle or three technique. Everybody is starting to recognize the nose tackle and what we stand for and how tough it is to be down where we are at.
Q: I know Casey Hampton was a guy you looked up to, is it kind of cool you will be going to the Pro Bowl with him?
VW: Yeah, in '07 when I met Casey we had a bond right then and there and we've kept in contact. We give each other shout outs after games and stuff. To see somebody who I've watched in film and basically learned how to play the game - learned how to be a nose tackle - to play with him, that's an honor itself. I'll see him again hopefully, but I don't want to see him again, not in the Pro Bowl. Hopefully I will have to miss that one for other reasons, but we try to take it one game at a time. It's an honor.
Q: Do you think this is the best season you have ever had?
VW: I don't know, every year I go in and try to get better. I can't answer that one. Me personally, I beat myself up a lot; my wife can tell you that. Certain plays I want to make that I didn't make- I didn't make the tackle or I wasn't even near the ball. Sometimes I just have to keep myself in check, humble myself and I think that's why I am the way I am because I don't need Bill [Belichick] to yell at me to get me fired up, I yell at myself. I find little things to get myself fired up; I always try to get better. A lot of guys on this team do the same things. I don't know if this is the best season I've ever had.
Q: Playing through contract talks earlier this season. How satisfying is this particular season that given the off-season and your commitment to the franchise?
VW: Like I said, when I signed up I signed up for six years and I am going to honor that. All year I have been playing and never thought twice about what I was doing because if I thought twice about it, I wouldn't be doing it. It's easy to get caught up in it, 'sixth year, it's your last year, you shouldn't be playing', I could have easily taken that role but that's not me. I love football; my teammates know that, my coaches know that, my family knows that, and that's the only thing that matters to me. They all understand that and I truly believe in if you do the right thing it will work itself out, and I'm sticking by that. It will work itself out sooner or later it will come to a time where it will have to work itself out and whatever happens, happens. I've been taking it like that and I will continue to take it that same way- address it at the end of the year after football and go forward from there.
Q: How much do you, as a team, owe the other teams battling the Texans for a playoff spot and give it your best shot this weekend? Also, can you tell me what you thought of the Colts decision to pull their starters the other day?
VW: I have nothing to do with the Colts. Everything we're doing is Patriot related. I really don't care what the Colts have done.
Q: What about what you as a team owe?
VW: We want to win point blank. I'm sure my teammates feel the same way. That's how we are approaching this game just like any other. We are going to go out there, prepare and practice hard. Practice the right way and try not to get into any bad habits and put it together on Sunday. Hopefully we can come out with a 'W'. Whatever happens after that happens, but we definitely want a win point blank.
Q: How are you feeling? Are you physically feeling better?
VW: Day-to-day. I am getting better.
Q: Do you feel confident, if not this week, you will be back for the playoffs?
VW: I'll be back sooner rather than later. I am getting better day-to-day. I don't try to look forward to the future really, but day-to-day is how I take it. Everyday I wake up and see how I feel and go forward from there. I have been getting better so hopefully I will be out there quicker rather than later.
Q: In your mind is there any one thing that has righted this ship since the Miami game?
VW: Commitment. I really think our focus level and our preparation - everybody stepped up to bat and basically put everything in every week, everything we had and we will need that going forward. Our focus level and our practices have been better. The younger guys are starting to come into their own. The leaders are starting to play better football; everybody as a team and as a unit is doing one thing and that's their job. I think we got away from that at times this year and when that happened we weren't successful. Everybody understands what can happen if we do things the right way. Everybody stepped up to bat and has been starting to trust one another and it has been working out and paying off for us. That is something, as a team, we have to continue. Every week we challenge each other. We come in on Wednesday put in a game plan and look at film, after film we go through what we went through and the next day do the same thing, make the corrections and move on. Everybody knows the focus level has to be higher around here. Everyone is doing there best at doing that. For the most part we have been on the right track.
Q: Has it been harder than you anticipated being able to put business on the side, not take it personally that nothing has gotten done and go out and doing your job?
VW: At first it was. I can't lie, at first it was. Never being in this situation before it was a problem and I could have talked to hundreds of people about it. I talked to certain people and everyone had different answers. It basically boiled down to what I want to do and what's best for my family and me. My wife put it on my shoulders. She said, 'What's best for you? You make the decisions.' She knows how much I love football and right then and there I say you know what, its football. I am a true believer in everything working itself out and I am sticking behind that. Once I put that behind me, it was behind me [and] I didn't look back and I don't have any regrets. If I had to do it again I wouldn't change a think.
Q: This must be a hell of a reward for you putting faith in yourself and faith in your passion of the game and going out there and saying you are going to play the year then you make the Pro Bowl.
VW: Yeah, everyday I try to get better. I'm a ball player. I'm not the greatest by a long shot but one thing I do is put a lot of effort and time into football. I put a lot of time in over here. Sometimes I don't want to be here, I want to be home with my family, but it's just something in me. It's for the best, for my teammates and myself. I make those decisions and move forward. It was tough at first, but once it got going I really blocked it out. I want to thank you guys because I am pretty sure you guys want to ask me all the time about it, but you haven't and I really appreciate that, dearly. It's one thing going in the locker room and having to answer something about the contract every week. You guys gave me my space and I appreciate that. You helped me out with that big time. In fact, if I did it all over I would do it the same way.
Q: There aren't really any nose tackles in the Hall of Fame. Do you ever think you would be one of the first or so nose tackles in there?
VW: I don't. At the end of my career I can look back at the success I had and the team I was surrounded by, my teammates and my coaches and think about it then. Right now I am just happy to play football. I don't think about after football, really. I still have a little more time to play and enjoy the game. I try to not look into the Hall of Fame. When that time comes it comes. I can only do what I can do, be the best player I can be and everyday try to get better. I will continue that the rest of my career no matter what the situation may be - that's me. I will move forward and play football as long as I love it. The day I stop loving it is the day I hang my cleats up. I am far from that right now.