Leave it to the wife of a Patriots player to break some injury news, which the team usually guards more vigorously than the palace jewels. Bianca Wilfork posted a message on her Twitter account Tuesday afternoon that included a picture of her husband, Vince, the Patriots’ veteran defensive tackle who left Sunday’s game early in the first quarter with an Achilles’ tendon tear.
The Twitter picture showed Wilfork sitting in a hospital chair and giving a thumbs up, right foot in a cast.
“Thanking God for a successful surgery,” Bianca tweeted.
Wilfork, 31, is likely headed to the season-ending injured reserve list, although the team — which initially announced his injury Sunday night as being to his ankle — hasn’t made that designation yet, nor disclosed that Wilfork has even had surgery.
They didn’t have to — the Wilforks shared the news.
“One thing I know is I signed up to play football [and] I don’t regret anything that has happened and there is no need to feel sorry about it. I’ve been blessed to only have had one surgery prior to today and that was in high school. . . . I have so much confidence in our team and know that they will do great and I will be right besides them, maybe not in uniform but in other ways,” the nose tackle wrote on his Twitter account.
It would seem to be a foregone conclusion that Wilfork, who had missed just six games since being drafted by the Patriots in 2004, will miss at least the final 12 games (plus any playoffs) this season.
“He’s irreplaceable. We’ll have to find a way collectively as a team to fill the void,” quarterback Tom Brady said Tuesday on WEEI. “It’s an unfortunate injury. Injuries are a part of the game, but the season-ending ones are always tough to swallow.”
The players were given Tuesday off. The only team access was the weekly teleconference with coach Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. Much of the call was spent discussing Sunday’s opponent, the Bengals, but Patricia was asked about losing Wilfork.
“Vince is just a phenomenal player both on and off the field for us. From his leadership to his ability to his work ethic, which is such an incredible example, all of which all of our guys look at and try to model themselves after,” Patricia said. “Certainly injuries are an unfortunate part of the game of football, but that is what it is, and we’re obviously going to expect whoever’s out on the field to perform to the highest level of their ability. But Vince is certainly someone who we rely on week in, week out to really attack each opponent at a very professional level.”
Stars in stripes
Both Patricia and Belichick spoke highly of the Bengals’ offense, which you can bet will try to exploit the hole created by Wilfork’s absence. Third-year quarterback Andy Dalton has a solid core of skill players to work with, from running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Giovani Bernard to receivers A.J. Green and Mohamed Sanu to tight ends Jermaine Gresham and Tyler Eifert.
Green, like Dalton a 2011 draft pick, has 300 receiving yards through four games on 26 catches, and topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of his first two seasons.
“I’d say Green is as good a pure route runner as we’ll see,” Belichick said. “He’s a very good pure receiver: Quick off the ball, creates separation, excellent timing, judgment on the ball, good deep ball receiver, good third-down, red-area receiver. He’s big but he’s not the kind of powerful guy, [like] Julio Jones or Vincent Jackson, but his quickness, his ability to separate and get away from people is outstanding and his ability to go up and get the ball is very good, too.
“Those other guys are big, strong guys that can go up and get it with good ball skills. He has that same kind of size, but I’d say it’s a different type of athleticism. He makes some really spectacular catches, like Lynn Swann-ish.”
The Bengals’ team strength might be their defense, though, so McDaniels and the offense will need to continue the progress that was evident in the 30-23 win on Sunday over the Falcons. Cincinnati has nine sacks and has forced seven turnovers. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer relies on his line (Geno Atkins, Carlos Dunlap, Domata Peko), but that’s not all the Bengals have, McDaniels said.
“I think they really have solid players and disruptive players at all three levels. That to me is a big challenge any time you play a defense that has playmakers, guys that can create turnovers at all three levels of the defense,” McDaniels said. “That always presents challenges for the offense because you have to do a good job of, first of all, taking care of the line of scrimmage against this team.
“This is a really disruptive front. They do a good job of creating negative plays in the running game, penetrating, and getting in the backfield.”
Much was made when the Patriots chose to keep rookie Ryan Allen at punter instead of Zoltan Mesko, whose 2013 salary figure was more than three times as high. Allen has been solid so far, averaging 44.9 yards per kick, with eight of his 22 kicks downed inside the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Combined with Stephen Gostkowski’s penchant for touchbacks (20, on 22 kickoffs), the Patriots are doing decent work in the always-underrated field-position game.
“When we’re backed up, Ryan has done a good job of that,” Belichick said. “Of course, Steve has done an excellent job with the kickoffs, giving us field position in that area, too. It’s all been positive.”
As for Mesko? He’s last in the AFC (and next-to-last in the NFL) with a 41.9-yard average punting for the 0-4 Steelers. Just two of his 20 kicks have been downed inside the 20.
The Patriots re-signed cornerback Marquice Cole, who played in the first three games on special teams, then was released on Friday. Cole also spent most of last season with the Patriots, and had one interception in 14 games . . . This will be the Patriots’ first visit to Cincinnati in six years. The Bengals have won both home games this season (20-10 over Pittsburgh, 34-30 over Green Bay) and lost both road games (24-21 at Chicago, and 17-6 at Cleveland). The last time the Patriots lost to Cincinnati was Sept. 9, 2001, when the Bengals won at home in the season opener, 23-17. Tom Brady had yet to start a game at that point, but he’s earned wins in the teams’ four most recent meetings: 2004, 2006, 2007, and 2010 . . . Greg Gumbel and Dan Dierdorf will call the game for CBS.