Hoping Mangold plays? Not Wilfork

October, 6, 2011
10/06/11
5:05
PM ET
David Butler II/US PresswireVince Wilfork is ready to take on the Jets.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It's not uncommon to hear Player A say they hope that Player B will play on Sunday because Team A wants Team B at their best. It's usually a lie. So give credit to Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, who was brutally honest Thursday when asked if he hopes dinged-up Jets center Nick Mangold would be back on the field this week.

"No, I don’t," said Wilfork, offering about as high a compliment as an opponent can with that statement. "He’s probably one of the best offensive linemen in the game. He’s definitely a leader on that team for them. I’m pretty sure that they would love for him to play because I think he gives them a spark. It’s absolutely a difference when he’s in and when he’s not in. I think they need that leadership and everything around that. I expect for him to be in there to get things going and everything and get his team off to a good start."

Wilfork brought plenty of opinions to the podium during Thursday's defensive captain press conference at Gillette Stadium, including his thoughts on how the Patriots will move forward without fellow cocaptain Jerod Mayo (knee injury).

"I think when someone goes down, everybody else has to step up and play their role," said Wilfork. "I think this is going to be a prime example for us. Whatever happens, whoever we have on Sunday out there playing, they have to be able to come in and step up because we’re all depending on them. I don’t think Bill [Belichick] would put anyone out on this field that he doesn’t have confidence in. We feel the same way. We have each other’s back. We know exactly what we have in this locker room and on this field. It’s a good thing when you can sit back and say, ‘We have more that we can give.’ That’s the situation that we have."

When the topic swung back to the Jets, Wilfork admitted he expects another physical battle -- Mangold or no Mangold -- invoking a little Tom Petty ("We wont' back down") when describing how the defense is ready for the potential return of "ground and pound."

"It’s always a physical ball game, especially when you have a team that likes to run the ball," said Wilfork. "[The Jets] have two good running backs; a big, physical offensive line; big receivers. It’s always physical and, knowing the Jets, they’re going to want to make it physical. We won’t back down. That’s one thing we will not do. I think that we’re built 'Ford Tough,' too. I think we have some big guys, defensively and offensively, our makeup isn’t a bunch of 280-pound defensive linemen. We [have] some big guys up front. But they have the same thing. It’s going to be a good challenge for us."

Wilfork also offered a State of the Union on the Patriots' defense at the quarter mark of the 2011 season.

"Still have work to do," said Wilfork. "We’ve done things well, we’ve done some things not so well. I think the things that we’ve done well have to continue to get better. The things that we have to get better at, we have to do a real good job of going out there and correcting them. Inconsistency at times and it cost us. A handful of plays in each game really cost this team from being a really good defense. We understand that. We have to keep getting better, we have to keep striving forward, we have to keep moving forward, keep getting better.

"That’s one thing we try to say with one another in practice. We have to get better, we have to be able to get off the field, we have to create turnovers [and] we have to be able to play the style of defense that we normally play. That’s just getting on and off the field, putting our offense in a good situation, field position and stuff like that. No big plays. I think we’ve been giving up a lot of big plays this season and that could come back to haunt us. That’s one area we definitely have to improve in -- getting off the field and eliminating bad football -- giving up these big plays and big drives and keeping our offense on the field."

Chris Forsberg

Celtics reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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