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BOSTON (CBS) – Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork picked off the first pass of his career in the Patriots 35-21 win over the Chargers.
Wilfork had so much fun doing it, it sounds like he’ll be gunning for interceptions more often.
“(I) actually tipped it to myself and caught it. I’m just happy I caught it. If I didn’t catch it, I’m pretty sure my teammates would have let me have it,” said Wilfork, who weighs in at 325 pounds. “As much junk we talk around here, who is better, defense or offense, who can play what position; I’m pretty sure they would have let me have it if I dropped the ball… Now I can talk smack to them.”
Wilfork did not even need oxygen after the sprint.
“I’m a well-conditioned athlete, didn’t need any oxygen,” he said. “I was good to go.”
After tipping Philip Rivers’ intended pass for Mike Tolbert to himself, Wilfork rumbled 36-yards to help set up a field goal right before half-time.
“There’s no way I’m ever going to see him coming. I would throw that one again every time,” Rivers said. “He made a great play.”
While the Patriots got three points out of it, Wilfork was hoping for more.
“Yeah I did,” Wilfork said when asked if he thought he could reach the endzone on the play. “Anytime you get your hand on the ball, you always think about scoring as a defensive player. A lot of times you don’t get a chance to touch the ball.”
Wilfork On His First Career Interception
“We play a lot of situational football around here. In that situation with two minutes, I kind of know what they were trying to do. I’m not saying I was right, but I saw the running back take off so I was thinking screen,” he said. “I actually got in his throwing lane (and) made a play. Bill always says if you take a chance you better make it. I guess I made it.”
“Vince is a tremendous athlete,” said coach Bill Belichick after the win. “People don’t realize how good his hands are, but he can throw it, catch it, catch punts. He wanted to return punts after we put him back there when he was a rookie in training camp. He’s a terrific athlete and he’s got really good hands, obviously.”
It was a great play by the d-lineman, showing poise as he tipped the pass to himself and then ran for a big gain. Wilfork attributed a drill they do in practice where the linemen line up against a wide receiver and play as a defensive back.
“Here you have 300+ (pound) guys running routes. Some look terrible, some look pretty decent,” he said. “We do do it. It be jokingly, but at the same time we are very competitive. We actually get something out of it, and it showed up today.”
Wilfork said he had a similar interception in High School, but also did not find the endzone. He was tackled by the quarterback, but takes pride in the fact the QB was in front of him, and no one caught him from behind.
As for Sunday’s interception, it got the attentions of Wilfork’s teammates. Not just as a game-changing play, but as a great effort by the big man.
“That was legit. He had great ball security too,” said tight end Rob Gronkowski. “That was awesome.”
“The run was ugly, the pick great,” said defensive end Andre Carter. “The pick was fantastic. I know he was trying to high-step but I think those hips were a little tight. It looked good, though. We were proud of him. Couldn’t have happened to a better person.”
Now the Pro Bowl defensive lineman thinks he can fill in for the defensive backs if need be.
“I’m a cover-two guy… I like to get my hand on the receiver,” joked Wilfork. “I can’t play off, I have to be up in someone’s face; actually hitting them in the chest. That’s where I make my living.”
And it did not stop there. He could also step in if punter Zoltan Mesko misses time after suffering in injury against San Diego.
“Do I need to give you my resume? Of course I can punt,” Wilfork said confidently.
As for the blazing speed he showed off in the return, Wilfork knows there are a lot of teammates he could never beat in a foot race. But there is one that he knows he could.
“Gronk can run; but Tom, I got him. Tom (is) not a question,” Wilfork said with Brady standing close by. “That’s irrelevant right now. Oh, hey Tom!”