During the last offseason, Vince Wilfork's family life and career crossed paths as the Patriots' former first-round pick took a closer look at his weight.
Wilfork has always been a large man and at 325 pounds, the Patriots nose tackle is among the biggest in the league. But he's also surrounded by health concerns, and his wife, Bianca, hasn't been afraid to remind him about that.
During the offseason, at Bianca's urging, Wilfork happened upon a book during a routine visit to a Wal-Mart. The book that caught his eye, "The Abs Diet: The Six-Week Plan to Flatten Your Stomach and Keep You Lean for Life," sparked a bit of a lifestyle change -- although he was quick to point out that the changes haven't been too drastic.
"Six pack? I have a keg, that's how I'll put it," said Wilfork. "I have a keg and I'm proud of it. But just to trim it up a little bit, make it a smaller keg, I'm good with that."
Wilfork's weight became a concern when he lost both of his parents before the age of 50 -- his father to diabetes and his mother six months later to a stroke -- and Bianca put the hammer down on her husband.
"Basically, she was like, 'Hey, we're going to get it on track.' She looked at my health, my family history and said, 'This offseason we are going to really cut down and really work on your midsection,'" Wilfork explained. "I was like, 'Midsection? I'm always going to have a stomach.' She said, 'I understand that, but it can be smaller.'
"I took it. I was mad when she said it, but at the same time, I think I really got it into my mind then. In the offseason she said, 'You're going to get to a Pro Bowl sooner or later,' so I think that was a stepping stone for us to get it going in the offseason."
Wilfork wouldn't say exactly how much weight he lost, but he did admit to having some trepidation over whether or not the loss of size would affect his strength and ability to hold up against the constant pounding he faces anchoring the middle of the Patriots defense. Nose tackles make a living being big, and losing weight -- even for the noblest of reasons -- isn't generally in the job description.
But he soon realized that the re-distribution of weight had strengthened other areas while actually increasing his quickness, and any lingering concerns he had disappeared completely last week when he made Bianca's words ring true by being selected to his first Pro Bowl squad.
"My wife deserves a lot of credit for this," Wilfork said. "The only thing I do is go out on Sundays and play, but from a health standpoint, she really kicked it into gear with me this year. I could sit here and take all the credit, but I'm not going to do that. I've got a lot of people to thank: my teammates, this organization and with winning it makes it a lot easier for guys to see you playing on Sundays."
Earlier this season, linebacker Mike Vrabel, himself a first-time Pro Bowler, commented that the only player on the Patriots defense who consistently gets double-teamed is Wilfork. Despite that constant extra attention, he has been able to make plays and has shown the ability to penetrate and disrupt opposing offenses throughout the year.
"You look at a nose tackle, you look at me, and the only thing you see is I have a big gut," Wilfork said. "I transferred that weight and distributed it out on my body to different areas, and I was like, 'I don't know if I'm going to be able to hold my ground on double teams. Can I still stop the run?' That was answered when I got to training camp."
And he's continued to answer that question nearly every week since, earning him his first trip to Hawaii.
--QB Tom Brady didn't record a passer rating of less than 105 in any of the first eight games of 2007, but has been below 100 in five of seven games over the second half of the season, including last Sunday's 79.7 rating in the win over the Dolphins. For the season, Brady's passer rating is 117.2.
--RB Laurence Maroney has 260 rushing yards over the last two weeks, including Sunday's career-high 156 yards in the win over Miami. The two-week total is nearly a third of Maroney's team-leading 789 yards on the season.
--TE Stephen Spach has been New England's lone healthy tight end since signing with the team two weeks ago. While he's yet to catch a pass for the Patriots, he's seen significant playing time as TEs Kyle Brady and Benjamin Watson recover from foot and ankle injuries, respectively.
--WR Wes Welker tied for a game-high five receptions against his former team last Sunday, giving him 101 receptions for the year. The total ties a franchise record for catches, matching Troy Brown's 101-catch season from 2001.
--WR Randy Moss had five receptions against the Dolphins, including a pair of touchdowns to bring his season total to 21. He needs one more touchdown in the finale to tie Jerry Rice's single-season touchdown reception record.
--LB Tedy Bruschi had a game-high nine tackles in the win over Miami. He also leads the Patriots through 15 games with 98 tackles.
--LB Mike Vrabel had a pair of sacks against the Dolphins, improving his season total to a career-high 11.5 sacks. He's the first Patriots player to register double-digit sacks in the Bill Belichick era and the first since Willie McGinest in 1995.
--DL Richard Seymour continued his late-season surge, recording his first full sack of the year against the Dolphins. Seymour now has 1.5 sacks in eight games since joining the team off PUP.
--DL Ty Warren's 1.5 sacks against Miami were a season high and give him four sacks for the season.
--DE Jarvis Green recorded his seventh sack of the season against Miami. The veteran reserve needs a half sack in the season finale to tie his career single-season high set last year.
--WR Troy Brown averaged 9.2 yards on six punt returns, including a 28-yarder against Miami in his first action of the season since joining the team off PUP. Unfortunately for the 15-year veteran, he also muffed a punt that was recovered by the Dolphins in the second quarter.
Resting starters or not?