Bill Belichick praises athletic, in-shape Vince Wilfork

AP

Vince Wilfork’s physique may not show it, but Patriots coach Bill Belichick says Wilfork is a great athlete who’s in great shape and one of the biggest reasons the Patriots are in the Super Bowl.

At his press conference in Indianapolis today, Belichick praised Wilfork for making back-to-back big plays late in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game, noting that Wilfork had already been on the field for more than 60 snaps at that point but still had the energy to stuff a run on third down and pressure Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco on fourth down.

“Late in the fourth quarter when we had to have it, the whole game was on the line, he made the plays for us,” Belichick said.

Wilfork, who’s listed at 325 pounds and looks heavier than that, had two interceptions during the regular season, returning one for 28 yards and the other for 19 yards, and Belichick said those plays proved just how well Wilfork can run.

“Vince is really a good athlete, as we can see from all his interception returns and open-field running and those kind of plays,” Belichick said.

Belichick also noted that Wilfork can play in running or passing situations and doesn’t ask to come off the field and rotate with other defensive linemen.

“He takes a lot of pride in not coming off the field, which I love in a defensive lineman — that they want to be on the field and not come out,” Belichick said. “He’s in good condition. Out there at practice today during the offensive period he’s running sprints back and forth on the field, working on his conditioning, with a week to go in the season. I think that’s a sign of his dedication.”

The big gut that hangs over Wilfork’s waistline makes him look like something less than a great athlete, but looks can be deceiving.

“You can talk about his appearance — maybe it’s not the classic appearance — but he’s a good athlete, he’s in good shape and he works real hard,” Belichick said.

And without Wilfork, the Patriots probably wouldn’t be in Indianapolis right now.