Vince Wilfork calls Nick Mangold ‘probably best center’ in NFL
|10.18.12 at 4:39 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The newfound trend of throwing rose petals in feel-good Patriots-Jets rivalry continued Thursday as Patriots All-Pro nose tackle Vince Wilfork called perennial Jets Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold the best in the game.
“He’s probably the best, probably the best center, I believe,” Wilfork said of Mangold, a three-time All-Pro. “I’ve been saying this ever since the guy’s been a rookie. He’s been pretty steady for them. And it hasn’t changed.”
Not only is the 28-year-old Mangold a force as part of the protection scheme for Jets, Wilfork reminded everyone Thursday of just how much of New York’s offense goes through the center, who is in his seventh season out of Ohio State.
“Everything it seems like goes through him: the run game, he calls the plays on the line slides, he’s the guy in charge,” Wilfork said. “That’s how it should be, because that’s their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they’re running the ball, it always seems to end up behind 74 [Mangold’s number]. He’s a big-time player for them, I give him all the respect in the world facing him numerous times.”
Mangold did not practice again on Thursday as he is nursing an ankle injury. Wilfork wouldn’t mind if he didn’t play Sunday but he fully expects Mangold to be snapping the ball to Mark Sanchez.
“That’s one of the guys, I’m sure he’ll be ready to go, no matter what is being said or what his injury may be,” Wilfork said. “Trust me, I’m pretty sure he’ll be there.”
To Wilfork’s point, Mangold missed two games last year with an ankle injury but returned just in time for Wilfork and the Patriots on Oct. 9, a game won by New England, 30-21.
“Trust me, I don’t mind,” Wilfork said. “I think everybody will be pretty healthy for this game. You don’t want to miss these types of games. If I was on the same side or on the opposite side of this man, I would want to play. Division game, for the lead in the division, there’s a lot riding on this game on both sides. If you’re healthy enough to play, you have to expect everyone.
“He’s one the players that you wish you could have a guy like that, 11 guys like that on the field with you at all times because he just means so much to that team.”