Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Asked and answered: Vince Wilfork, Patriots nose tackle

Vince Wilfork knows all about what it takes to slow down Frank Gore -- and just how tough that job is. Wilfork and Gore played together at the University of Miami and both were part of the Hurricanes' national title team in 2001.

How's Frank Gore looking to you this year? Same guy?
"It's Frank being Frank. (laughs) Knowing him personally and knowing what he's been through in his life, with the injuries and the off-field issues with his family and everything, he's still looking the way he looked down at the University of Miami. He's pretty tough to tackle. He's elusive, and he's got some good speed -- he can catch the ball out of the backfield, too. Being that small (5-foot-9, 217 pounds), he can block pretty well.

"It's going to be very, very important for us, especially up front, when we have him, make sure we have him. A couple of times, you'll see on film that guys think they have him, and he'll pop out. We have to do a real good job of wrapping up this week, especially with him, but with the rest of the backs, also. (DeShaun) Foster is a pretty good back himself, and (Michael) Robinson will mix in on special teams and everything, and they might throw something in there for him. On defense, we have to do a real good job of tackling and being fundamentally sound and taking care of our jobs."

How important is it for the defensive front to re-establish itself after the Miami game?
"Our main goal was to get back on track as a team, as a defense. If we do that, if we take care of our jobs, everything will be OK. We'll make the adjustments where we need to make the adjustments on the sideline and in the locker room at halftime. But, once again, it always boils down to trusting one another on the field and not taking everything into your hands. That's not the way to go, and a lot of times we get caught up in doing that, and it hurts us."

Does it all start with Gore, shutting him down?
"As a defensive lineman, you always want to stop the run -- whoever they put back there. ... It starts with stopping the run, trying to get them in long-yardage situations so we can get after the passer. If we don't stop the run, we're going to have a long day, and I think everybody understands that."

A lot of teams have gotten a lot of hits on J.T. O'Sullivan this year; have you guys seen anything that you can capitalize on?
"There's opportunities out there, and we're going to try to. When we get the opportunity, we have to make them count. He's running that ship, and they're (2-2) and they're looking pretty good. They're looking explosive offensively, and they're putting up a lot of points. We have to do a real good job of just taking care of what we can take care of, and when those opportunities present themselves, we've got to take advantage of them."

How do their big-play capabilities change things if they get a third-and-12, third-and-13 situation?
"They have plays for that. Third and 15, third and 20 -- looking at film, they can pick those up. Most offenses, when you get in a situation like that, you try to get it manageable where you can get a punt off. Not this team. Third and 15, they have plays in their playbook they turn to where they're like, 'Let's pick it up,' and they have. It's going to take everybody out there this week. We're very excited to play. Our bye week is over, so we're ready to get back on the field and have some fun."

With a quarterback who's relatively inexperienced like J.T. O'Sullivan, do you ratchet it up a little bit defensively or do you still tailor to his strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback?
"No, you can't just single out anyone like that. He's running that ship pretty well; he can make some plays with his legs and with his arm. It's going to be real key for us, how we play this guy and how we play this team. I don't think, because he's being such a young quarterback, we'll do anything different than if we were playing against a 15-year vet. The game plan is the game plan, whatever it may be, and we have to execute it. We're looking forward to it. We're very excited to get back on the field and get this thing rolling."

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