When the Patriots face the Bengals in Week 5 they'll do so without nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the last remaining player on defense with a Super Bowl ring. The former first-round pick tore his ACL in Sunday night's win over the Falcons, and now New England will have to move forward with a nose tackle-by-committee approach to filling Wilfork's shoes.
And while we begin any conversation about the possibility that this is the year the Pats fall back to earth with "As long as they have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady they'll be fine…," even the future Hall of Fame quarterback knows that moving forward without Wilfork is a huge blow to this team.
"Well, to say we'll miss him is an understatement. His presence in the locker room and on the field is really unmatched, so it will be a team effort," Brady said Tuesday. "I know Coach Belichick said there's no Vince Wilforks on the street corner waiting to sign with the Patriots, which is the truth, but we're going to have to find a way to -- in a group effort -- replace such a valuable player. And he'll be around, his spirit, his leadership, he'll still have a big impact on our team. But he's been a great player for a long time and everyone's disappointed about his injury."
As for whether this will have an effect on his team, Brady offered this:
"Yeah, well, initially there's a blow to the team morale in that you wonder who's going to fill in that spot and who's going to take the void of such a great player. But then as soon as you get into the week, you start thinking about your job, how much you need to do and what the coaches are asking you, and then you really leave it to coach to think of the things that he can do now to help replace a guy like Vince as well as personnel.
"So injuries are really a part of the game and I think we've learned over the years that there's not one player that makes the team," he continued. "Certainly losing a guy like Vince doesn't help our team in any way, but we're going to have to find somebody to go in there and do the job of that nose tackle position and do it to the level that they're capable of. It's a team sport so the rest of the team has to pick up the pieces."
And no discussion about injuries would be complete unless Rob Gronkowski got a name check. The tight end didn't play last week and it's not clear he'll suit up in Week 5, either.
"He's been on the active roster for the last four weeks and I've seen him every day working as hard as he can to get back," Brady said. "So it ends up being a medical decision and that's not my role. So I'm just waiting for the day that he does get back because he adds so much to our offense. Every week that he's been out there he's made significant improvement. So it'll be great when he's back and it'll be great when we get Danny Amendola back and Shane Vereen back and finally we can see what our offense is really made of. Whether that's this week or the following week or the following week. I mean those things are really not determined by me."