FOXBORO, Mass. — Quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Wes Welker and a smattering of other Patriots noted last season that the team lacked leadership. Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork kept that train moving in the offseason.
After signing his five-year contract extension in early March, Wilfork demanded each player needed to be more accountable while speaking to the media on a conference call.
Tuesday morning at Gillette Stadium, Wilfork reaffirmed those beliefs and said he was pleased with the Patriots' rededication during their voluntary offseason workouts.
"Last year was a tough year for us," Wilfork said. "We went through it, and I hope — I hope — that was the worst part of it, going through last year. Every year, this time of the year, [we're] very excited to get back. We never say we're excited to work out, but we're excited to work out. I think everybody just feels that everybody's leadership has to step up."
New England's season ended with a 33-14 home loss to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. The players looked shocked in the locker room after the game, and there has been more of an emphasis from them to make sure that never happens again.
"I think everybody knows where we left off last year," Wilfork said. "That's not a big surprise. It was a disappointing year for us all, so I think everybody understands the level of play needs to be higher. I take responsibility. Each guy has to take responsibility with that. That's what we're going to do.
"If I'm on the field, and I feel a guy is not giving it to me, I'm going to ask him to give it to me. That's point-blank. There's no hard feelings, not at all. We want to win. This is my seventh year here, and last year was a pretty tough year, close games we lost. In the past, we've won those ball games. It wasn't Patriots football, so we've got to find a way to get back there."
Wilfork said he likes the positive attitude and hard-working nature each player has brought to the voluntary workouts, which have had an excellent attendance rate. He also said they've built some good camaraderie in the process. Their focus is to carry this momentum into summer camps and the regular season.
"I love everybody to death that steps on this field with me, but we've got to understand when we take this field, we're taking the field for one purpose: to win," Wilfork said. "Whatever it takes, we've got to win ball games. Sometimes, we did it. Sometimes, we didn't. We lost tough games last year, so we need to get back to playing Patriots football. That's first and foremost, and that starts now."