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Vince Wilfork: OTAs can help young defense improve

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  May 31, 2012 05:05 PM

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Vince Wilfork was one of six Patriots players to chat with reporters after today's OTA session; a big Celtics fan, the defensive lineman called Wednesday night's overtime loss "heartbreaking" and said he still has faith in the Green.

But he also talked about the defense that he served as a captain of, and agreed with former teammate Matt Light's recent comments that the Patriots' defense was young and trying to establish the same type of swagger that the defense had during the team's Super Bowl-winning years.

Wilfork said Light's assessment was fair.

"I think that he’s right. [The defense was at] a level that, you had guys that played this game for a long time, had been in this system for a long time and they just knew how to play," Wilfork said. "When you’re around something for so long you adapt, you can start doing some different things and move around differently because you know it so well. Being a young defense [last year], I think with the lockout and all of that, I think we struggled at certain points with some of the things that we did. Hopefully it can better this year."

Step one in the process of improving is now, he continued, with the team on the field for organized team activities, learning the plays and getting a feel for one another.

"I think the OTAs are good for us and are definitely good for a younger team. We’ve got a younger defense and I’m not saying we’re too young, but at the same time it helps to be able to get together and get the little things out of the way that can make a big, big difference down in the season," he said.

"I think some of those things we can get done now. We’re trying now. With OTAs we’re trying and every day we put something different in and every day guys are coming in to work. That’s what it’s going to take. You have to strive to get better and that’s where I’m at right now – striving to get better and hopefully my teammates are doing the same thing."

As for some of his new young teammates on the defensive line, draft picks Chandler Jones, Jake Bequette and Justin Francis, Wilfork said it was too early to make an assessment.

But given the Patriots' history, he added, there's no question in his mind that "down the road we'll be happy about everything."

With veteran Jonathan Fanene, New England's top free agent signing, it's a matter of learning to trust the man he'll be playing with.

"It’s a trust issue. I think the quicker you can trust somebody, the quicker you can learn and teach people things and get on the same page with one another I think the better you’ll be," he said. "That’s the phase we’re in now with OTAs – just getting together and getting familiar with one another. Some guys have been around here and some guys haven’t. Just being able to go out there and work with one another and see how we work off each other. You go from there and you build chemistry like that and that’s what we’re doing now."

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

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