Vince Wilfork remains the go-to guy on Patriots’ defensive line
|08.01.12 at 7:45 pm ET|
FOXBORO — As he enters his ninth season in New England, Vince Wilfork is far and away the longest-tenured current Patriots defensive lineman. On a line that’s seen consistent turnover in recent years, it’s a good thing for Pats fans that Wilfork has remained a familiar face.
Since Wilfork was drafted in 2004, the Pats have seen the likes of Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Jarvis Green, Mike Wright and Mark Anderson, among others, depart. They’ve filled holes with guys who have already come and gone, and they prepare for the 2012 season with newcomers Jonathan Fanene and draft picks Chandler Jones and Jake Bequette.
Add a new defensive line coach in Patrick Graham (formerly the linebackers coach) and there’s been plenty of change on the defensive line.
“I don’t think the leadership has changed,” Wilfork said prior to Wednesday night’s practice. “I just think I’m being more vocal in the meeting rooms, helping out Patrick Graham, a couple of things he may have questions about. I think we do a real good job of helping one another. Guys that have been [here] for a couple of years are being forced into more and more of a leader. … I think that we just keep getting better.”
When Wilfork arrived as a first-round pick, he jumped onto a line that had top picks in Seymour and Warren as well as a veteran nose-tackle to learn from in Keith Traylor, among others.
“You get attached to some people,” he said. “I remember coming in and I had Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green, Ty Warren next to me and [ linebackers Mike] Vrabel and Willie McGinest. Over the years, things change. People come in and out. I’ve been around for long enough to understand how this thing goes. If they need my help, I’m always here.
“But it’s tough because you get attached to people and you get a chance to know people off the field and not just on the field. Families and stuff like that. For people to move on, it can be heartbreaking at times, but at the same time, those things always happen at this level. You have to get used to it real quick.”
New England’s defense finished 12th in the league with 303.2 yards allowed per game. Jones, selected with the 21st overall pick out of Syracuse, figures to give the Patriots the young pass-rusher its been missing, and if he or Bequette (10 sacks as a senior) have any questions along the way, they can ask the man in the middle.
“I can play with anybody,” Wilfork said. “That’s just the trust I have in those guys to learn what they have to learn. If they have a question, they can always ask me because I’ve been around this for a little bit. I’m not saying I know everything, but I’ve been around for a while and kind of know what to expect. I think we all do a real good job with helping one another.”
Asked how the new guys have looked, Wilfork really proved that he’s been a Patriot for a long time by giving the quintessential Patriot answer.
“It’s too early,” Wilfork said. “Everybody’s working hard. That’s the only thing I can say. We won’t know until the first game of the season, and our goal is to get better each day. At this time, it is tough because you’re getting back into the swing of things and learning new stuff and get new people and have to learn how to play with one another and trust one another. Right now, it’s just a learning curve for all of us right now. Hopefully, once the season kicks off, everybody will be on the same level. That’s what we need to be successful as a defense.”
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