Patriots’ Vince Wilfork ‘Grateful’ For Being Healthy, Back In Playoffs

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FOXBORO, Mass. — Vince Wilfork isn’t taking anything for granted as he prepares for yet another playoff run with the New England Patriots.

Wilfork tore his right Achilles in Week 4 last season, forcing the veteran defensive tackle to miss the remainder of the year, including New England’s two postseason games. The 11-year veteran has remained healthy this season, though, and he’s appreciative of the opportunity to again push toward a Super Bowl.

“I’m a football player, and I’ve always said that. I wasn’t surprised that I could play and be effective at this level (in 2014),” Wilfork said Wednesday at Gillette Stadium in advance of the Patriots’ divisional-round game against the Baltimore Ravens. “My goal was just getting back on this team and helping my teammates win, and we’ve done a lot of that around here.

“I’m just fortunate and grateful to be playing in another postseason game this week coming up. That’s always been my goal to get back and help my teammates win, and that’s how I approached this season.”

Wilfork appeared in all 16 of the Patriots’ regular-season games this season, anchoring a defensive line that contributed greatly to New England’s improved defense. The 33-year-old faces a tall order Saturday, as the Patriots will be tasked with slowing down a solid Ravens rushing attack led by Justin Forsett.

The Patriots’ 2013 season came to a screeching halt in the AFC Championship Game, when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos rolled to a 26-16 victory at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. New England’s defense looks better prepared to make a title run this season, though, and the 325-pound Wilfork obviously is a big reason why.

“Last year, we weren’t able to have as much meat — that’s the best way to say it — up front,” Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower said Wednesday. “Vince helps a lot, especially having a veteran guy, an older guy, who knows the game as much as he does. It slows everything down. It slows the offensive line from getting on top of us because nobody’s just going to leave Vince Wilfork single-blocked at all.”

Wilfork entered last offseason facing uncertainty, both with regards to his health and his contract. The five-time Pro Bowler has since regained the stability he’s long enjoyed with the Patriots.

Now it’s about making up for lost time.

Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images

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