Geoff Burke/US Presswire
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork says he's feeling fresh 12 weeks into the season.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With the Patriots' switch to a base 4-3 defense this season, the workload for veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork has spiked. Through 12 games, Wilfork has appeared on 729 of the team's 852 defensive snaps this season (85.6 percent), second on the team to only cornerback Kyle Arrington (732 snaps).
By comparison, Wilfork has averaged approximately 66 percent of total defensive snaps over the past three seasons, including roughly 71 percent of snaps in 2010. The next closest defensive lineman on this year's roster is Andre Carter (663 snaps), while the other starting defensive tackle, Kyle Love, has logged less than half as many snaps (384).
So how is Wilfork feeling?
"I feel 100 percent fresh," Wilfork said with a smile on Thursday. "I’m telling the truth. Right now, I think everyone feels the same way. You have rookies that feel a certain way, guys that have been around -- it’s a long season, but this is the time when you have to be able to take care of yourself, take care of your body, put the right things in your body, and do the extra little thing to keep you healthy. It’s not going to be pretty, you're not going to wake up and feel like you did four months ago -- that ain’t going to happen.
"I feel good. Me, personally, I cant complain about the way I feel. I’ll tell you what, I feel a lot better than I did a couple years ago -- knock on wood there. But everybody is in the same same boat. It’s a grind. It's a tough level to play at, but it’s the NFL, you have to. When you talk about the best of the best, it don’t get any better than this. This is what separates good teams from the bad teams, right now, the good players from the bad players. You have to be able to hold up, do the extra little things just to keep it going, keep focused on your job."
Wilfork is coming off maybe his best individual effort of the season in Sunday's win over the Colts in which he registered a team-high 10 tackles, including a sack. But Wilfork was adamant that individual stats mean nothing and that the victory is his only gauge of success.
Looking ahead to Washington, he stressed that -- despite stats that suggest the Redskins struggle on the ground -- the Patriots are preparing with the No. 1 goal of stopping the run. Washington ranks 31st in the league with 87.5 rushing yards per game, and 28th in yards per rushing play at 3.78 yards per trot.
"This team runs the ball pretty good," said Wilfork. "[Redskins coach Mike] Shanahan has had success everywhere he’s been when his offense is running the ball. We know that, and that’s not going to change. It starts with the running game. We can’t be in third-[and-short situations], we’ll have a long, long night. We have to be able to buckle up on first and second down and win those downs, get them in long-yardage situations, then be able to actually get after the quarterback and get a chance for some turnovers. It’s going to start up front, it’s definitely going to start up front with us. If we don’t play well, it’ll be a long day."
Wilfork said he relished the opportunity to go against a run-heavy offense.
"Shanahan is old school. You look at them, they're physical, and one way you can gauge a team and how tough they are, is [by asking], 'Can they run the football.' And they do it. They run the ball. People can say whatever they want to say about it, but trust me, this team right here can run the football. They have some guys that can run it. I don’t care what backs they put in, I don’t care what linemen they shuffle around, they're all physical and they all take pride in running the football. It's a big, big challenge for us. As a defensive player, you have to live for these games. It's one of these games where there won’t be much trickery, you won’t do a lot of guessing. It's just knowing what a team wants to do. [Stopping the run is] the one thing we want to do."