Though it was expected, hearing Vince Wilfork confront the very real possibility of retirement on Saturday night was still tough for Texans and Patriots fans alike.
"No emotions and I will take my time and think about it. I think I have played my last NFL football game," Wilfork said Saturday, via comments distributed by the team. "I will take the time and do my due diligence and sit back see if I really want to retire. We will see.
"I don't know how long that will take," he continued. "I will see, it doesn't change the fact that I enjoyed every bit of my career; I enjoyed 11 great years in New England and enjoyed two great years in Texas with unbelievable teammates. I couldn't have any better teammates from both organizations and you talk about the organizations themselves and you talk about top of the class. These are two owners that anyone would love to play for."
The 35-year-old five-time Pro Bowler made it through 13 NFL seasons. In that time, he was one of the league's most dominant run stoppers; a rare combination of a rotund, nose-tackle body and linebacker speed. Wilfork played with the Patriots from 2004 to 2014. He failed to play double-digit games in a season just once in his career, when he was injured back in 2013. He was credited with an assist in Saturday's loss.
Without a viable starting quarterback on the horizon, the Texans will continue to depend on their defense, which means finding an able-bodied replacement for Wilfork. While his level of play in 2016 was not the best of his career, Wilfork still provided the Texans with nearly 600 snaps well above the replacement level for players at his position. A true, athletic nose tackle like Wilfork will not be easy to find or easy to develop. They might have the best set of defensive ends in football, but they will miss their one-man traffic jam if and when he hangs it up.