patriots notebook

Vince Wilfork feeling ‘fine’, excited about direction of Patriots’ defense

Perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said he’s “always trying to get better.’’
jonathan wiggs/globe staff
Perennial Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said he’s “always trying to get better.’’

FOXBOROUGH – Vince Wilfork has played every game since the start of the 2010 season and has missed just six games in his 10-year career, and in the last few seasons has played a high number of snaps for a defensive tackle.

So when Wilfork shows up on the injury report, even when the ailment may be minor, it’s news.

The Patriots cocaptain appeared on the report Wednesday and Thursday as a full participant with a foot injury.


Despite his status, Wilfork declared himself to be “fine.”

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But Wilfork hasn’t quite looked like his dominant self over the opening weeks, leading to speculation that he is dealing with an injury. He had some problems against the Jets in particular, when he was lined up most frequently against Vladimir Ducasse, a 2010 second-round pick who has largely been a disappointment for New York.

The 31-year-old Wilfork acknowledged he has work to do, but it isn’t different from any other season.

“You always want to get better. I’m always trying to get better,” he said. “That’s the name of the game. I don’t try to say, ‘I’ve been playing good. I’ve been playing bad.’ It’s just one of those things, you have to keep plugging away.

“There’s some good plays that 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 going to have some more screwed-up plays. Trust me.”


Wilfork said he does self-scouting when the Patriots are on their bye week or in the middle of the season, watching himself on film to help him clean up mistakes.

“I normally go back and if there are some plays giving me problems, I go back and see what I could have done differently . . . 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. It’ll get there. I do it every year. There will be some things I pick up, some things where I say I have to play it better or some things that I’m fine with. But I always try to critique myself, especially if I think something is giving me a problem I’ll be like, ‘Let me go back and see if I’ve always had problems with this type of play or this type of scheme,’ and then try to make some sense about it. But that’s just me being me, critiquing myself, wanting to be the best for my teammates, because the better I am, the better it is for the team.

“The last thing I want to do is let my teammates down.”

Wilfork said he is “excited” with where the defense is, while also noting that the unit isn’t where it needs to be.


“But we’re going,” he said. “We’ve moving forward.”

Cannon ready to go

Marcus Cannon has appeared in 26 games since being drafted, starting only one, when he filled in for Sebastian Vollmer at right tackle.

With Vollmer’s availability for Sunday’s game at Atlanta in question — he left last week’s game with a foot injury, and has not practiced this week — Cannon could get his second career start.

Is he ready for the opportunity?

“I don’t really know how to answer that, I just do what I’m told,” Cannon said after Thursday’s practice. “Whatever they ask me, that’s what I’m going to do, that’s all I know.”

Cannon played well after replacing Vollmer, despite drawing a false-start penalty. He’s played in all three games this season, but logged the most playing time — 37 snaps — in last Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

He’s also spent time as a reserve at guard, learning from an experienced group of linemates and from one of the best offensive line coaches in Dante Scarnecchia.

“I’m nowhere where I need to be,” Cannon said. “I feel like I’m improving every day, I’m just trying to get better every day and work hard to do what’s necessary to please the team and help us win.

“Every day there’s improvement, but there’s still a lot of improvement to go. Just have to take it step by step, work harder to improve.”

Familiar foe

Playing the Falcons means Tom Brady will face cornerback Asante Samuel again.

The veteran, who was traded to Atlanta before the 2012 season after signing a big-money free agent contract with Philadelphia in 2008 to end a five-year stint with the Patriots, had five interceptions last year.

Even at 32, Brady told Atlanta media on a conference call that Samuel is still a “dynamic playmaker.”

He also recalled his practice battles with the 2003 fourth-round pick.

“I’ve thrown more interceptions to Asante than probably anybody,” Brady said. “He lets you know when he intercepts it, too. It usually doesn’t last a day. It’s a week, two weeks.”

Former tight end Alge Crumpler, now a radio host in Atlanta (he was drafted by the Falcons and spent the first seven years of his career there), had Brady tell him on the call that the Patriots’ execution hasn’t been good enough but maybe it would be better if Crumpler were still on the team.

By the numbers

Here’s an incredible stat: At 139-39, Brady is the first quarterback in NFL history with 100 more wins than losses. Considering he’s been the Patriots’ starter for more than 11 seasons, having only 39 losses might be the most impressive aspect of that figure . . . New England practiced in sweats and shells Thursday, and Matthew Slater (wrist) and Vollmer were the only players absent. Danny Amendola (groin), Jerod Mayo (ankle), and Rob Gronkowski (forearm/back) were among nine players listed as limited . . . Falcons receiver Roddy White (ankle) returned to practice on a limited basis after sitting out on Wednesday . . . “Sunday Night Football” analyst Cris Collinsworth was on hand for Thursday’s practice, chatting with Bill Belichick as players warmed up.

Michael Whitmer of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shalise Manza Young can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.