After having to gather myself to write a send off for Rob Ninkovich last week, now having to do one for Vince Wilfork is making things a little misty here in the Ministry of PatsPropaganda. Wilfork retired yesterday after two final years in Houston, meaning his final game was appropriately in Foxboro against the Patriots.
— Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) August 7, 2017
Now we can forget about those two years Big Vince had as a Texan and just remember him as the Patriots stalwart that he was. The Patriots have planned a press conference for Wilfork on Wednesday and I’m so fired up for it. It will be great to welcome Vince home one last time and hopefully we’ll be seeing more of him and the former first lady of Patriots Nation, Bianca, around Foxboro.
Wilfork became the rock which the Patriots had to turn their defense over on. From 2010-2012 they essentially ran him into the ground, playing him over 80 percent of the snaps and all over the defensive line. For those who might’ve thought Wilfork was just a nose tackle, he really was so much more than that.
Look at these snap percentages:
- 2009: 51.8 percent
2010: 69.8 percent
2011: 86.8 percent
2012: 81.3 percent
In 2013 those miles caught up with him as he tore his achilles in Atlanta and was lost for the season. He miraculously came back in 2014, undeterred by an injury that has KO’d plenty of careers, playing 74 percent of the snaps en route to his second Super Bowl title with the Pats.
For a blogger with a defensive focus, Wilfork was such a huge part of everything I’ve written about since 2007. He was the defensive leader and Belichick’s ultimate chess piece.
Some of my best Wilfork memories?
Interception against the Raiders.
Interception against the Chargers.
A punishing hit on Donald Jones of the Bills. See video at top for all its destructive power.
And maybe my favorite, Big Vince raising his arms in triumph after the Ravens missed the game-tying field goal in the 2011 AFCCG. This was a long time coming and Vince looked just like I felt in that moment. That game might’ve been the best of Wilfork’s career, as he dominated a great Ravens offensive line, making up for the 2009 AFCDG where the Pats got pushed around.
I always enjoyed listening to Wilfork give his “point blank” radio interviews, where his insight into the defense was always valuable to a blogger like me trying to decode the mystery that remains the Belichick scheme. He was always upfront and honest of his assessment.
One quote from Belichick summed it up:
“Very unselfish,” coach Bill Belichick said. “We play him in different positions, where we feel like he’s maybe the most needed, not necessarily where it’s going to feature him or give him a great opportunity to make plays. But a lot of times it is to eat up blockers or try to disrupt plays. “He’s an explosive guy that’s got very good football instincts. He knows where the ball is, he knows what they’re trying to do. He really responded to a lot of the different challenges or positions that we put him in. He’s done a very unselfish job and been very productive.”
There were some sticky moments, when we thought Wilfork and the Pats might not work out a deal. It almost grew acrimonious but in the end it all worked out and Wilfork’s career was the perfect defensive bridge from the years of Bruschi, Vrabel, et al to Ninkovich, Hightower et al.
No one has a place in Patriots history quite like Vince Wilfork.
There’s little doubt Wilfork will be in the Patriots Hall of Fame in five years. Without him the defense might’ve never survived or recovered from the total turnover that occurred from 2008-2009.
Two Patriots legends retiring in two weeks is never a fun way to start the season, but Wilfork and Ninkovich both did their jobs, won two Super Bowl titles each and became Patriots legends in then process.