The loss of Vince Wilfork is no doubt a blow to the New England Patriots, but his teammates know that they must move on. The 325-pound nose tackle and team captain is likely out for the year with a torn Achilles' tendon, so all the talk on Monday was about the impact of Vince's absence.
Tom Brady: Vince Wilfork's presence is unmatched - ESPN Boston
Appearing at halftime of the "Monday Night Football" radio broadcast on Westwood One, Tom Brady commented on Vince Wilfork's season-ending injury. Here's a transcript of what he said:
"Well, to say we'll miss him is an understatement. His presence in the locker room and on the field is really unmatched, so it will be a team effort. I know Coach Belichick said there's no Vince Wilforks on the street corner waiting to sign with the Patriots, which is the truth, but we're going to have to find a way to -- in a group effort -- replace such a valuable player. And he'll be around, his spirit, his leadership, he'll still have a big impact on our team. But he's been a great player for a long time and everyone's disappointed about his injury."
On if he can gauge what it does to the morale of the team when you lose such a player of that level of importance:
"Yeah, well, initially there's a blow to the team morale in that you wonder who's going to fill in that spot and who's going to take the void of such a great player. But then as soon as you get into the week, you start thinking about your job, how much you need to do and what the coaches are asking you, and then you really leave it to coach to think of the things that he can do now to help replace a guy like Vince as well as personnel. So injuries are really a part of the game and I think we've learned over the years that there's not one player that makes the team. Certainly losing a guy like Vince doesn't help our team in any way, but we're going to have to find somebody to go in there and do the job of that nose tackle position and do it to the level that they're capable of. It's a team sport so the rest of the team has to pick up the pieces."
Like Brady said, it'll be a group effort to replace Vince. The Patriots won't find another nose tackle out there that is half as talented as Wilfork, but Bill Belichick should be able to revise the scheme and tailor it towards the team's strengths, just like he always does. The man that plays behind Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, talked about the Patriots' ever-evolving defense during his conference call with the media:
When asked if the defense will change schematically, Mayo said, "To be honest with you, I'm not sure. That's up to Coach [Bill] Belichick and Matty P [Defensive Coordinator Matt Patricia]. We have guys that can do pretty much the same things, but hopefully it's at a high level. We'll just have to see. The defense changes every week anyway, we're a game plan defense - different fronts, different schemes - we change every week. We'll just have to see what happens."
Mayo's right, we just have to see what happens. The Patriots will likely sign a defensive tackle from free agency, but they also have both A.J. Francis and Marcus Forston on the practice squad. Not to mention the fact that Armond Armstead could make an appearance sometime soon.
This is not to discount the guys currently on the 53-man roster, because after Wilfork went down, the guys currently on the team stepped up and played extremely well. Those players are rookies Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, who came in after Wilfork was injured in the first quarter.
"Those guys practice hard, they're always in the film room, the coaches always have them ready to go. I think that's what it's all about, is preparation during the week and those guys prepare well and they came in to the game and did some good things." Mayo made sure to throw a little 'Belichick' into his statement, "Obviously we still have a lot of work to do and gelling together to get that chemistry but that comes with time. But last night was a good night for them."
If I know one thing about Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, it's that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." If one player, like Vince Wilfork, goes down with an injury, other players will step up and fill the void. We saw that on Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons, but it's important that the team continues to improve moving forward.
As Jerod Mayo perfectly said, "That's our mentality, is the next man up and I'm sure - we have a lot of great people, great players, great leaders in the organization in general so I know I expect that to continue on."