Wilfork knows Mangold won't miss out

Wilfork knows Mangold won't miss out
October 18, 2012, 7:01 pm
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FOXBORO -- Nick Mangold sprained his ankle in Week 5's Monday night matchup between the Jets and Texans. With New York playing the Patriots two weeks later, Vince Wilfork wasn't upset by the idea of Mangold being sidelined for a few games.
"Trust me, I don't mind," the nose tackle grinned.
But the long-time Jets center didn't miss a step. Behind Mangold, New York ran over Indianapolis for 252 yards on 44 plays. The team averaged 5.7 yards per ground gain, with running back Shonn Greene racking up 161 personal yards and three touchdowns.
Wilfork pointed to Mangold as gatekeeper to the Jets' success.
"He's probably the best, I believe. I've been saying this ever since the guy's been a rookie. He's been pretty steady for them and it hasn't changed. Everything, it seems like, goes through him -- run game, he calls the plays on the line slides. He's the guy in charge. And that's how it should be because that's their bread and butter. When they need a play, if they're running the ball, it always seems to end up behind 74.
"He's a big-time player for them and I give him all the respect in the world, facing him numerous times," Wilfork continued. "But he's one of the players you wish you could have 11 guys like that with you on the field at all times because he just means so much to the team. I think they understand that."
That Wilfork understands is more important to the Patriots.
No issue there -- the nose tackle wasn't exaggerating his nod.
A near-identical situation came up last season when Mangold's status was uncertain before this very AFC East showdown. It was October; it was a bad ankle; the men in the middle volleyed compliments.
"He's a pain in the butt. He's got unbelievable technique, quickness. Just a real big man," Mangold had said of Wilfork.
"I'm pretty sure that they would love for him to play because I think he gives them a spark. It's absolutely a difference when he's in and when he's not in," Wilfork had said of Mangold.
The center played every snap in New York's 30-21 loss in 2011.
It's just not a game anyone can afford to sit out. Especially not this year, when every team in the AFC East is at 3-3 and first place is on the line.
"You don't want to miss these types of games. If I was on the same side or the opposite side of this man I would want to play in a game like this. It's a division game for a lead in the division, so there's a lot riding on this game for both sides. So if you're healthy enough to play, you have to expect everyone."
Wilfork has no doubt who he'll be lining up across from on Sunday.
"I'm pretty sure he'll be ready to go no matter what's being said, or what his injury may be. Trust me, I'm pretty sure he'll be there."