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Vince Wilfork respects Ray Rice as 'small but tough' runner

Posted by Michael Vega, Globe Staff  January 18, 2012 12:57 PM

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FOXBOROUGH --- Vince Wilfork said there was no secret as to what made Ravens running back Ray Rice such a special player.

"He's tough to bring down,'' Wilfork said today at Gillette Stadium, where the Patriots began preparations for Sunday's AFC Championship showdown.

That much was evident when Rice went for an 83-yard touchdown on the first play of scrimmage of the Ravens' 33-14 romp over the Patriots in their last playoff meeting at Gillette Stadium Jan. 10, 2010.

"He probably has a lower body that's a lot like my lower body -- big thighs and very strong,'' Wilfork said. "He's a hard runner and has a low center of gravity and can catch well and can block. You put those three things in a running back, you've got a complete running back and he's been doing it ever since he's been in the league.

"He's a tough, tough guy to bring down,'' Wilfork said. "To be that small, you wouldn't expect him to be that tough of a runner, but I'll tell you what, he's probably one of the toughest guys to bring down in this league because he always keeps those wheels spinning. He always comes up with big plays, too, whether it's in the pass game or the running game.

"When you have a running back like that, you can do anything with him and I think the Ravens are doing a good job of using him,'' Wilfork said. "It's first on our list, we want to slow him down if we're going to be successful.''

Here were some other items Wilfork addressed:

On Ravens QB Joe Flacco:"When he can throw the ball in a clean pocket [is when he's at his best]. He has great poise in the pocket. He will stand in there and deliver a good football if he has the time. At times you see that and at times you don't see that. He's a tough quarterback. Just look at some of the hits he's taken. He'll bounce right back up. You got to tip your hat to him.

"He's at his best when he can get everybody involved if he can, have a clear lane to throw down, and even without a good lane, he's just one of those quarterbacks who's going to take his time because he's going to be very poised. He's going to deliver the football, even if he's going to get hit. He's not scared. You can't ask for anything better."

On playing with former University of Miami teammate Ed Reed:He's a playmaker. He's always been that way, even at the University of Miami. I was young, but I didn't really undertstand how great he was. I knew he was good, but I didn't see it until I got to the NFL and saw him make the same exact plays. He's just one hell of a player, on and off the field. He knew how to go into a film room, break down film, probably as good as a coach.

"I had a chance to witness it first-hand. One of the plays that always sticks out in my mind was when we came up here to play BC [in 2001] and BC was actually leading the game and Matt Walters intercepted a ball and Reed just took it from him. He claims [Walters] gave it to him, but he just took it and ran it back. Earlier that year, at Florida State, he had a blocked punt with a separated shoulder, so he's going to give it his all. He's just a smart, tough football player, physically and mentally. I'm just glad he's not an offensive player, but I'm pretty sure he could be on that side also, because his ball skills are amazing."

On his own ball skills, and penchant for making interceptions, which Patriots coach Bill Belichick described as 'legendary':"I think having the ball in your hands as a lineman is a dream come true. Too bad it wasn't a touchdown. It's been a fun year, a real fun year. It's been exciting to come to work and have fun and just watch this team grow. This team is a special team, a special group. It's easy to come to work and have fun when you watch guys work hard each day. It's been a blessing.''


News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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