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New England Patriots Links 1/31/11 - Vince Wilfork Remains Backbone Of Young Defense

Karen Guregian reports Vince Wilfork hates that his defensive line is no longer in the top-ranked category, but he accepts his role as the backbone for the young D to grow on.

"People move on. Sometimes it’s just the way the ball rolls. You can’t stay forever. Wish you could, but it don’t happen like that,’’ Wilfork said Friday, when asked about the line no longer being considered in the elite class. ‘‘I’m very happy with what we have. We have a bunch of guys who love to play football, who want to learn. And they learned most of the year.’’

"Sometimes you have to do that. As a leader, as a veteran, you just have to be a backbone,’’ Wilfork said following Friday’s AFC workout. "Sometimes I might not be in the best position to make plays, but to see the team grow, to see the defensive line grow, it was something special this season. And now, with Ty (Warren) coming back next year, that gets a little pressure off of me because he brings a lot to the table. So I’m very excited about the year coming up.’’

"The good thing with all that, [the young players] were forced to play. We couldn’t hold them back any longer to groom them. They were thrown in the mix because we needed them,’’ Wilfork said. "We didn’t know how it was going to turn out. Sometimes, it was OK. Other times, you could see the lack of experience, and the lack of knowing what we do. But during the course of the year, they grew. So you can’t complain about that. Now, they have a year, or in some cases, two years under their belt. They’re not rookies anymore. That’s going to be big for us.’’