, Salem, MA


February 2, 2012

Hungry man

Wilfork leading Patriots defensive revival

FOXBOROUGH - A big, strapping 6-foot-6, 232-pounder, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was no match for "The Paw."

Engaged with a blocker already and not to be denied, Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork extended said paw, latched on to Flacco by the breast plate and yanked him to the Gillette Stadium turf for the latest defining Wilfork moment - making it 2.5 sacks in two playoff games.

"I'm around him all the time, and I don't even know how to explain him," said linebacker Jerod Mayo. "There's a hunger for the game, a hunger to win, it's just unmatched."

Hunger issues aside, Mayo wasn't about to broach the topic of Wilfork's girth. Wilfork, at 30, has performed in these two playoff games like the rookie he was in 2004, forcing his way into the lineup spot with the greatest Patriots defense of all time.

Clearly, this is a case of Wilfork leading by example. And the rest of the defense seems to be following suit.

"He has a ring, and no one else on this defense has a ring," said Mayo. "He's expressed to all of us the joy you get, winning the championship game. You know, he's not a liar."

Wilfork, content with a contract that delivered $18 million guaranteed remains desperate on the gridiron.

History and Bill Belichick have taught him it's the only way to compete at this high level.

"Going to the University of Miami my first year and winning a National Championship, and then the next year going and losing to Ohio State and losing, and first year in the pros winning Super Bowl," said Wilfork.

"A couple years went by, and I saw how hard it was to get to this level. And in '07, of course, going and losing is a tough, tough feeling."

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