Opponent Opinions: DT Vince Wilfork

Former Patriots first-round pick Vince Wilfork starred at the University of Miami, and he'll be back in town Sunday when New England faces the Dolphins in a key AFC East battle. Wilfork discussed the matchup Wednesday in a conference call with South Florida media members.

Here's what Wilfork had to say on various topics:

On how eager he is for the rematch against the Dolphins: "We knew we had them twice being a division game. We basically, after the first game, which we were kind of embarrassed at home, this moment has finally come and we kind of put it to the back burner until this week. Now, it's occurring, so now that we have a chance to do something that we didn't do the first game so it's going to be a lot harder going down there. Everybody's fighting for a spot in the wild card, in the playoffs. Like I said, being a division game and a rivalry game, I think that's the toughest thing. We're doing everything we can to get prepared for those guys. They're playing great football down there and we're going to have to bring our ‘A' game to match them. Anything other than our ‘A' game won't help us. We're working hard up here and I'm pretty sure they're working hard down there. I think it's going to be tough battle Sunday."

On this game being in the back of the players' and Coach Bill Belichick's minds: "I think it's on everybody's minds now. Like I said, when we first met up here, it wasn't pretty; they handled us pretty well in every phase of the game — passing, throwing, everything they did, I think they played way better than us. That's something that we're going to have to go out this Sunday and kind of try to control, especially can we run the ball, can we stop the run, can we force them into third and long's? If we can't do that then it's going be a long day. They haven't been in third and longs for all season, they haven't been in there a lot. That means they're running their offense pretty well when they have a third and short, second and shorts where they can basically continue with their game plan and call any play they want to call. They've been doing a really great job down there. Those guys, they got that team pumped up, they've been playing with a lot of confidence, a lot of swagger. I think it's going to be another tough battle Sunday. I can pretty assure you it's going to be a physical game again. Anytime we play a division game like this, it will always be a physical game. The most physical teams come out on top."

On how the Patriots have been able to overcome the injuries and still remain competitive in the division: "Because the bar has to roll on. We look at that as adversity. How can you continue to play going through all of that stuff? Losing all of the guys that we did lose, some getting back, some didn't get back, key players that play a big-time role for us. I think Coach Bill (Belichick) does a real good job of keeping us level headed and at the same time we do a real good job with the leadership that we have in this locker room knowing what is at stake, knowing that when your number is called you have to be ready to step up. I think this year has been a little different because like you said with the injuries and everything, it forces us to do some things that we normally don't do, to play differently, to approach games differently, our preparation is different. There are a lot of things that we had to start doing that we haven't done in a long time. I think everybody has jumped onboard and we've been playing pretty good football, we've been pretty sound. The losses have been tough losses, but at the same time, we've been playing pretty good football. By the same token, you have to be ready when your number is called and I think we do a real good job of identifying that."

On LB Jerod Mayo's impact as a rookie: "He's jumped on ship quite early and has got this defense down pat. He's still learning and at the same we're all still learning, we all can play better. As a rookie, to come in and to step up to the plate and basically been thrown into the fire, I think he's handled it pretty well. We just keep in mind that these younger guys, right now in college your season is just at the end or winding up the end, and here we are with six more games and hopefully more after that in the postseason. I think the physical part, it's going to be a little different because they're so used to basically ending their football season right now, but this is where teams start to play their best ball right here. We're trying to get that through their heads and everything. He's one hell of a player and he's going to get better and better as time rolls on."

On how much the Dolphins won the battle at the line of scrimmage in Week 3: "They dominated the whole game. They dominated everything; the line of scrimmage, the passing game, running game. Special teams we played pretty competitive, but at the same time, there were some times where we didn't do what we had to do there. I think they played a complete game the first game around. We knew that and we knew exactly what they do. Looking at the film, we remind ourselves of what's going on and everything. We have a chance to do something about that. We can talk about it all day and we can live in the past all day, but the fact of the matter is we play Sunday. It's going to be two teams in the same division out there fighting their tails off at one o'clock. We're looking forward to it and I'll tell you we've been looking forward to it, we're working hard towards that and hopefully we can come out with a win."

On Samson Satele calling him the toughest defensive lineman he faces and what kind of challenge Samson presents to him: "For him to say something like that, that's pretty encouraging of me. At the same time, the first time we played them, they handled us pretty well, including myself. It's a lot of things that we're going to do differently. We're going to play more physical at the line of scrimmage and I think he does real good job of controlling that line up front with his guys. I think ever since he came into the league I think I can see the difference in his play and he's getting better and better and better. Now, those guys are playing great. They're running the ball; they've got two of the best running backs in the game right now. The quarterback (Chad Pennington) is not making any mistakes; they're not turning the ball over. They're running that offense to the ‘T' and I think it all starts around the center. My hat's off to him and the whole offensive line. It starts with him up front because he's the one that makes the line call, he's like a quarterback on the offense and he does a real good job of that. It's very challenging for me and my defensive line when we play these guys. I'm looking for a tough battle like we always have. We have fun out there and everything, we talk and everything, but he's one hell of a player himself."

On how other teams have used the Wildcat against the Patriots: "The Jets ran it, every year they sprinkle in here and there, but not as much as the Dolphins did. If I was the offense, I would do the same thing. The Dolphins showed something that people really didn't show and they were very successful doing it. That's something that we have to prepare for. If you have talent like the Dolphins do, I don't there is a team, there's probably a handful of teams that have talent the way the Miami Dolphins have talent. They can basically do what they want on offense because there's talent everywhere from the skill positions down to the O-Lineman. They were very successful with that, I think, going forward. That was something that we needed to attack because they were so successful doing it. We have to make sure that we can get all of that stuff under control. After that game, we've seen other teams that did the same thing. It won't surprise me if they come out with that again. Why not? They were successful once doing it. They'll see if we figured it out and test it so it won't hurt anything. We have our antennas right now, but anytime somebody has success against you, this league is going to look at all of the film they can look at. I think a lot of teams look at that film and like, ‘Okay, we might have something here. Let's sprinkle in this and see if they learned their lesson'. I think over the past couple weeks, we've gotten a couple teams that sprinkle in just to keep us off balance and everything. The Dolphins, they work it to the ‘T' and that's probably the only team that can really do it because there's only a handful of teams that have athletes like they have and they have a bunch of them."

On how much Bill Belichick takes this game as a personal challenge: "I really don't know. I can only speak for me. I take this for a personal challenge because I think they did something to us that a lot of teams haven't done to us. For one, they rushed for over 200-something yards and you almost had two running backs for over 100 yards. Around here, we've been pretty good against the run over the years past and everything. The Dolphins did something that you really don't see. That's one thing that, being a nose tackle on the defensive line, that's the first thing we talk about is stopping the run and we didn't do it. When you can't stop the run and when a team is able to run the ball, they can do whatever they want to do to you, point blank. I don't care if they've got the Randy Moss, or TO (Terrell Owens) on their side, or Jerry Rice, it doesn't matter. If your ground game is getting five, six, seven yards per carry, why go in the air if you don't need to. We're going to have to a better job of stopping the run and getting them and try to force them into third and long situations so they can get the ball up in the air. Maybe we can get to the quarterback or get our hand on a ball or two. It all starts up front with stopping the run first."

On if this game plays any special significance since he is from South Florida: "Every time I play Miami in Miami it's pretty exciting for me because I'm from Florida. I played down in the University of Miami so I have a lot of friends and family down there that are able to watch the game or come to the game. I'm always excited about that so that will be something I'm looking forward to, is playing in front of home crowd fans of my own, some friends and family, some people that I don't get to see all year until this time. I'm excited about it, but at the same time I think my team is excited about going down there to play football just because of the last outcome here. We're doing everything on our end to get prepared for the Dolphins. I'm pretty sure they're going to be ready to go. They've won some games, they lost some tough games. I'm pretty sure we're going to get their best."

On Matt Cassel's development since Week 3: "I think as a team we're growing. I think his is more noticeable because of the position he plays. He's our quarterback and every week you can see him getting better and better and better and better. As a team, we need the team to do the same thing. We can't just have one guy stepping up each week; we need everybody stepping up each week. I think Cassel has stepped up each week and I think as a leader on this football team a lot of guys are looking at him in a different light now and almost putting him in that leading category because of the way he's playing. As long as he keeps doing what he's doing and we feed off him, I think we'll be in good shape, I think we'll be okay, but we have to get better as a unit, not as individuals, I think as units to be a better football team. I think we'll be OK."


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