Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, buoyed by his team’s 39-26 victory Sunday night at Pittsburgh, appeared on WEEI this afternoon and addressed several topics, including the youthfulness of New England’s defense, the play of defensive lineman Mike Wright, the upcoming game against the Colts, and Tom Brady’s competitive fire.
In one lighthearted moment, Wilfork, no slouch himself as a competitor, reminded everyone of the offseason challenge he made to race Brady in 40-yard foot race.
“I told Brady in the offseason that we’re going to get it done,” Wilfork said. “You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to run for charity, that’s what we’re going to do. I’m going to talk to Mr. Kraft and we’re going to go into Foxborough, go into the stadium, get your popcorn, ice cream, or whatever and we’re going to race.
“We’ll have everybody there,” Wilfork said, “WEEI’s going to be there, ESPN’s going to be there, everybody is going to be there to witness this.”
Told it would be problematic deciding the length of the race, Wilfork replied, “The race is going to be 40 [yards]. Anything shorter, he definitely won’t win. Anything under 40, he will not win. I guarantee that. The longer it goes, the advantage goes to him.
“Look here, anything after 40 yards, I don’t need to be running that. I’ll tell you that right now. But anything under 40 yards, he’s in trouble.”
Sounds like the pay-per-view draw could be even bigger than a Pacquiao-Mayweather fight.
Wilfork also addressed other topics during his WEEI appearance:
On the defensive turnaround against the Steelers after the loss to the Browns: “Like we said last week, it started with practice. Practice was terrible. There were little things we were doing wrong and it carried over into the game. Going into this past week, we were like, ‘Let’s get a good start.’ Once we saw the film of Cleveland, we made the corrections and we put it behind us. I think everybody got off to a great start in practice. We had a great week of practice and it showed [Sunday night]. Everybody did their job and played the game we needed to play and we needed to be aggressive against this Steelers football team because that’s their style of play. They don’t know how to play any other way but physical and aggressive, so we knew we needed to match that intensity if we were going to have a chance and I thought we did that.”
On whether he agreed it was the most physical the Patriots’ defense had been this season: “I totally 110 percent agree, because the calls we had in allowed us to be aggressive. From the coaches to the players, we never second-guessed out there when we made a call. When a call got sent in, everybody was so tuned in and knew exactly what they needed to do and it allowed us to play aggressive and hard. And you know what? When we play like that, and when we play consistent football, we’re playing great. It’s the times when we don’t play consistent, it hurts. It was a great example of us all being on the same page, jelling together, and going out and being physical, especially up front. Both our offensive and defensive lines handled their front pretty well.”
On the play of the underrated Mike Wright: “Mike’s been doing it for a couple of years now. When his number has been called, he’s been ready to play. I don’t think there’s any guy in the league that can come in on third down and pass rush with the best of them. Just look at his stats. He’s a situational player. One week he’s playing defensive end, one week he’s nose tackle, one week he’s in the nickel and dime package, but whatever it is, he seems to come through at every moment. We used to have a guy here, Jarvis Green, who used to be the same way. But I think Mike Wright has taken his game to a whole other level. He understands the situation, because he never knows what situation he’s going to be in, but I’ll tell you what, he works his tail off in practice and it shows on Sunday. He’s definitely underrated, but we know what type of player he is.”
On the youthfulness of the Patriots’ defense, whose average age is 25.5: “If Bill [Belichick] didn’t have faith in who he has out there on the field, we wouldn’t be out there, point blank. I don’t care who it is — a 10-year vet or a rookie — if he doesn’t have the faith and confidence in you to go out and execute, you wouldn’t be out there.”
On the special nature of the upcoming home game against the Colts: “You know Peyton [Manning] is going to be Peyton. You know he’s going to hit the open receiver. He’s going to hand the ball off. It seems like we’ve been playing them forever. We kind of know them and they kind of know us. It’s going to come down to who’s executing the game plan better. Who’s not going to make the mistakes? That’s what it’s going to boil down to.”
On Brady’s outward display of emotion in a fiery second quarter sideline chat with the offense:“If Tom is chewing ’em out, there’s a reason he’s chewing ’em out. He’s not chewing ’em out just to chew ’em out. Tom plays with a lot of emotion. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s so competitive he wants everybody to be as competitive as he his. I don’t think it’s anything other than that. Mistakes that we make, he’s going to let you know _ I don’t care if its an offensive player or defensive player _ he’s going to let you know, hey, we can’t afford that. If he throws an incomplete ball, he’s [ticked] off with himself. He’s so competitive and it comes out and sometimes people might see like you saw [Sunday] night when he’s yellin’ and doin’ all that. It’s just another part of him. He wants to win and he wants to do everything perfect. Trust me, he wears his emotions on his sleeve, especially going into this game because the last time we faced [the Steelers], they beat us up pretty bad, so I think a lot of guys wanted to walk away with a ‘W’. I think we had an extra little spark in us.”