There was a period of time during the offseason where it appeared Vince Wilfork might not be back with the New England Patriots. After being asked to take a pay cut, the veteran defensive tackle asked the team for a release. Wilfork, who is entering his 11th season with the team, is coming off a season ending injury and eventually agreed to a three-year extension. According to a July 2 report by CLNS Radio, Wilfork is “excited” for the season.
The Patriots certainly missed the on-the-field presence and leadership of big Vince when he went out with a season-ending Achilles injury during the early part of last season. The middle of the defensive line struggled against the run and with young players filling in the role left vacant by Wilfork, Bill Belichick and company also lacked experience at the position. That’s why the possibility of losing Wilfork would’ve been damaging to the team, mostly because the All-Pro defensive tackle has been so loyal to the team.
That same loyalty was also a reason Wilfork asked for a reason. He felt disrespected, but eventually put the team first. He decided New England was a place he wanted to be. The contract depends on Vince’s health and his performance. He said he agreed to the deal because he believes the team and their commitment to him. Wilfork told the media in June, “If I didn’t believe the things that were brought to me, I wouldn’t have signed it. I’m not upset. I’m not holding any type of grudge. Business is business and everybody handles business in different types of ways.”
Since signing the contract, Wilfork is focused on the upcoming season and the future. His leadership and experience should greatly influence Patriots first round pick Dominique Easley. With the opportunity to mentor Easley and the other young players along the defensive line and the additions the team has made on defense, Wilfork has expressed an excitement that didn’t seem possible before he signed the extension. He said, “Every year I’m excited but I think this year is going to be a little more special because of what I’ve been through and how far I came along.”
Wilfork will also have fellow defensive lineman Tommy Kelly returning from a knee injury. With Jerod Mayo also returning as well as the additions of Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, James Anderson and Will Smith, the Patriots defense should be one of the top defenses this season. Health is the only thing that may be in their way.