FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork is tough to move when he’s on the field. It’s no surprise he’s hard to move when he’s laid low by injury.
The Patriots defensive lineman hasn’t gone anywhere even though he’s lost for the rest of this year with the Achilles injury he suffered in Atlanta.
Asked this week whether Wilfork and fellow veteran Tommy Kelly have had impacts on the young Patriots trying to step into the vacancies they left, defensive line coach Patrick Graham gushed.
“Oh yeah, they’re always a part of things,” said Graham. “Vince has been instrumental for me as a coach and in my life, allowing me to say, ‘OK Vince, how can I best get this point across.’ He’s not only a great player, if he ever decides to coach, he’s gonna be a great teacher. It’s just wonderful to have him as an asset -- on the field, off the field -- just to talk to him about stuff. That’s the guy everybody in the room wants to be like.”
Kelly, who came over from the Raiders and brought a magnetic personality with him that makes him an easy guy to be around, has been in the mix as well, said Graham.
“He came in, said ‘Coach, whatever I gotta do to help this team win games, I’m willing to do it.’ He did all that for us and he’s been a smart football player and hard worker and he continues to do a great job as far as helping guys learn.”
The pupils for Graham, Wilfork and Kelly -- Joe Vellano, Chris Jones and Marcus Forston -- have filled in pretty well so far. The Patriots have let up a ton of yards on the ground since both players have been gone, but play-by-play, it’s not as bad. When stops are needed, they have been generally provided. It’s hard to ask any more than they’ve given.
“The thing about (Jones and Vellano, who have seen most of the work), they work really hard and they try to get better every day,” Graham explained. “They ask the right questions, they know who to talk to when talking about technique. They always huddle around Vince, talk to Tommy. They’re growing as professional football players.
“It’s good when you got a group of guys that plays hard and tries their best to emulate the guys who came before, watching old tape of players who’ve been here,” Graham added. “We have a great leader in our room with Vince who instilled in them the work ethic and helped them understand what they gotta do to be professional players, how they gotta study. We’re not perfect every time but we’re trying to get better as a group.”