FOXBORO, Mass. — If any team can get through distractions, it’s Bill Belichick‘s Patriots. But that’s not to say it will be easy for Vince Wilfork and Co.
The Patriots defensive captain says the Aaron Hernandez situation will be a test for the team. They’ll have to ignore the noise, ignore the media and concentrate fully on football.
I think it’s going to test this team’s chemistry,” Wilfork said. “It’s going to test everyone that’s in this locker room, individually and as a team. It’s going to test to see how important football is to us. As a family, you just have to take it day-by-day, move forward day-by-day. At the end of the day, the ball is going to continue to roll, and the last thing we want to do is be stuck behind the ball. We have to try to stay above it.”
That’s a telling statement from the nine-year veteran. Many may assume the Patriots are nearly invincible after rallying off winning season after winning season. But Wilfork, the second-longest tenured player on the team, is saying this situation will be a challenge for his team.
Wilfork will try to get past it by sticking with his teammates. There’s a sign that hangs above the players’ entrance to the stadium that the All Pro will pay special attention to this year.
“When we walk through this door, we have a sign that says, ‘Put the team first and do your job,’” Wlfork said. “You have to read it every time you come in, and I’m pretty sure I will, even though it’s been there for a long time and I do every year. I think we’re all going to do it because that’s what we’re going to have to do.”
Wilfork was very respectful of the situation from the top, calling the death of Odin Lloyd “sad” and “disappointing.” Wilfork has a job to do, though, and the only way to get away from thinking about a former teammate spending time in Bristol County Correctional Facility is by getting back on the field.
“Football is an outlet for us,” Wilfork said. “When we come here, we expect to play football. We get away from everything and it’s started. Training camp is here and to come in on a note like this is tough. But at the same time, we have to continue to do our job.
“We’re not going to disrespect anything that’s going on with the families, but we do have to play football and our job is to play football and we’ll try to do that the best way we can and try to keep the ball rolling the best way we can. It’s starting with coming into training camp and starting a good season. We’re going to do everything in our willpower to ignore the noise and stay focused on the task at hand.”
As Belichick stressed Wednesday, if the Patriots are going to have another successful season, they’ll have to move on. Belichick’s defensive captain understands that while the team has to respect the situation, they also have a job to do.
“We have to move forward as a football team,” Wilfork said. “That’s sad to say, but it’s reality.”