FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork didn't sound like a man in much pain.
On Wednesday, his name popped up on the injury report for the first time this season when he was listed as a full participant in practice despite a foot injury. When asked about his health on Thursday, he shook with laughter.
"I'm fine," he said.
There have been moments through this season's first three weeks, however, when Wilfork hasn't looked like his normally-dominant self.
Wilfork played well in Week 1 but watched the Bills rush for 136 yards, the most by any New England opponent this season. Against the Jets in Week 2, Wilfork was at times held in check single-handedly by guard Vladimir Ducasse.
Wilfork appeared to do a better job of getting off blocks and clogging things up for Bucs running back Doug Martin in Week 3 (Martin's longest rush of the day was just 11 yards), but according to Pro Football Focus, after three games and 89 pass rushes, Wilfork has just two hurries, the lowest pass-rush productivity of all qualifying defensive tackles.
"You always wanna get better," Wilfork said. "I'm always trying to get better. That's the name of the game. I really don't try to [say] . . . 'I've been playing good. I've been playing bad.' It's just one of those things, you gotta keep plugging away. There's some good plays I've had and some bad plays I've had. That's football. Everybody goes through that. There's a lot of football left to play so I'm not worried. I'm positive I will play better. I'm positive I'm gonna have some more screwed up plays. Trust me. But that's football."
Wilfork said he hasn't yet noticed much of a trend in terms of the types of plays he wishes he would have handled better so far this season. That sort of self-scouting comes during the bye week, when he has time to go back and look at film of himself rather than an upcoming opponent.
"I normally go back, and if there's some play that's giving me some problems, I go back and see what I I could've done differently," Wilfork explained. "Normally I do that around the middle of our season when we get our bye. I go back and look on film, just seeing the way I was moving, or the way I was playing. How much weight I had on my hand, how much I was sitting back. I critique myself to the 'T'. It'll come.
"I do it every year so there'll be some things I pick up, there'll be some things that I say 'I have to do it better,' and there'll be some things that I'm fine with. I always try to critique myself, especially if I think something is giving me a problem. Let me go back and see if I always have problems with this type of play and this type of scheme. Then try to make some sense about it. That's just me being me. That's me critiquing myself and wanting to be the best for my teammates because the better I am, the better it is for the team . . . Last thing I wanna do is let my teammates down."
Wilfork admitted that his teammates have picked him up plenty throughout the early portion of the season. Fellow defensive tackle Tommy Kelly has been especially helpful, Wilfork said. Kelly has 16 tackles and 1.5 sacks this season.
"Well I tell, you what you can't double everybody," Wilfork quipped. "He's been making a lot of plays for us. It's just one of those things. When I'm on the field and I have guys around me and I just feel and know they understand what's going on -- that's the feeling I get with these guys around me. I know they know what's going on. I know they know the game. There's not a lot I have to think about out there on the field.
"My thing is, I want guys to make plays. I want guys to make plays. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't . But I'm always a firm believer your plays will come, you just can't press it, you can't be upset you not making a lot of plays because they'll come."
Wilfork may not be one of his defense's biggest playmakers while not 100 percent healthy, but that doesn't much matter to him.
"At this moment right now, I'm pretty satisfied with the way things are going right now," he said. "Especially when we 3-0. As long as we can keep it up and keep getting better each week, I think we'll be pretty good."