FOXBORO, Mass. —Â There are no hard feelings between the New England Patriots and Vince Wilfork now that the big nose tackle is back on the practice field.
Just three short months ago, it seemed that Wilfork’s tenure with the Patriots was nearing an end. Reports came out that Wilfork had asked for his release after the Patriots approached him about restructuringÂ his contract, and that the All-Pro had gone soÂ far as to clean out his locker in Foxboro.
The Patriots knew it isn’tÂ wise not to get on Wilfork’s bad side, and they offered him a three-year, $22.5 million extension, which he accepted.
“I’m here. That’s a dead issue,” Wilfork said Thursday about his contract dispute. “I’m here for a reason. If I didn’t believe in the things that was brought to me, I wouldn’t have signed it. I’m here. There’s a reason that I’m here. I’m not upset, I’m not holding no type of grudge. Business is business and everybody handle business in different ways. But in my career, I think the right thing was for me to be up here with my family and my teammates and a staff that I’ve been around for so long, an organization that I know.”
Wilfork has been a full participant at Patriots minicamp, which is a great sign for the recovery of his of torn Achilles. Wilfork, who suffered the injury in September, said he feels fine physically, and that he’ll start to gain confidence as he takes more reps.
“A lot have to do with mentally going out and doing it,” Wilfork said. “The more I do it, the more confidence I will have. With OTAs and minicamp, the time I spent out here with the guys, the time I spent in drills, the time I spent with the training staff, everything we do is for a reason. I canât be any happier than where Iâm at right now. For me, itâs just continue to build. Iâll be ready to rock and roll, hopefully, come training camp. Thatâs my goal. My goal has always been there. Where Iâm at now, Iâm in a good spot.”
Wilfork never considered retirement, even though many said that a 325-pounder would have difficulty returning from a foot injury. Wilfork already has proved critics wrong by being ready to participate in team drills in OTAs and minicamp.
“That was never in my mind that I thought I could never come back from it,” Wilfork said. “From the time they told me I did it, from the time I had the surgery, I knew that I was going to be back ready to rock and roll. I donât know if it was mind games or I had to play mind games with myself or what. It was never a question in my mind that I canât do it. I knew it was going to be tough. I knew how tough the injury is. I tell myself over and over again, Iâm not the average person. I just do things a little differently than most people that had this injury. Iâm going to stick with my guns.
“I know if I work hard, hard enough. If thatâs not good enough, itâs time for me to call it quits. Until that day happens, everyoneâs going to keep seeing my pretty face.”
The next step for Wilfork is toÂ strap on the pads in minicamp. He might not be a full participant right away, but for now, Wilfork appears ahead of schedule.