Patriot Wilfork means business
Vince Wilfork is all about charity, just not when it comes to his contract.
Wilfork finally made an appearance yesterday. The big nose tackle, who has boycotted all of the Patriots' organized team activities, including on Tuesday, was in Dorchester to promote the online raffle he's holding to benefit the Vince Wilfork Foundation, the Joslin Diabetes Center, and the Diabetes Research Institute.
Entering the final year of the six-year contract he signed as a rookie in 2004, Wilfork, who will make $2.2 million in base salary this season, much less than the other top interior defensive linemen in the game, has used his absence to display his displeasure at the lack of progress on a new deal.
On the field, the 6-foot-2-inch, 325-pound Wilfork is difficult to move off the line, and he's proving to be the same way off it. Listening to Wilfork yesterday, it was hard to believe that he and the Patriots were advancing toward getting him back to practicing. The nimble nose tackle wouldn't say whether he planned to attend any of the team's remaining OTAs (today, tomorrow, and Tuesday) or next week's mandatory minicamp.
"I don't know. It's a day-to-day thing. I may pop up. I may not. I don't know," said Wilfork. "I'm staying positive with everything. As far as people that are wondering what's going on with me, let me just assure you that I'll be ready to play football. I'm a professional, and I look forward to playing football."
Wilfork was asked if he'd show up to anything before he gets a new contract.
"We'll see. I don't know right now," he said. "I've never been in this situation before. I've never been out of football before. I don't know how this works. I don't know if I'm doing it the right way or the wrong way. I'm pretty sure I could ask a lot of guys in that locker room and all of them would give me different answers. So, I'm doing it the best way I can do it. That's what I'm going to do.
"My main thing is that Vince Wilfork is looking out for Vince Wilfork, point-blank. Whatever it may be. If it calls for me to miss something, I'm going to miss it because I look toward the future. That's how I'm going to roll. Something may change in a couple of days, something might not change. I'll take it day by day. I'm looking out for my family and myself. That's the bottom line."
Wilfork said his situation wasn't a big deal and claimed he didn't even know if there had been recent talks between the Patriots and his agent, Kennard McGuire.
It's not clear what Wilfork is looking for financially, although he dismissed any notion he wanted a contract similar to the megadeal the Redskins handed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. That deal, advertised as seven years, $100 million due to backloaded money, is really a four-year, $48-plus million contract.
The floor for Wilfork could be about $7 million a year and $20 million in guaranteed money, figures that match the contracts nose tackles Kris Jenkins and Shaun Rogers got from the Jets and Browns, respectively, last season.
So far, Wilfork's work stoppage hasn't cost him money. OTAs are voluntary. But next week's minicamp is mandatory. Wilfork's absence would be a shot across the bow to coach Bill Belichick.
Wilfork indicated some willingness to incur fines by missing mandatory dates.
"If I have to I will, but like I said, I may show up, as of right now I don't know," said Wilfork. "We'll just see. I know everything lies ahead of me, but we'll see. I'm in high spirits. My family is in high spirits. I'm not losing any sleep. Wilfork will be ready to play."
The hardest part of withholding his services is not being around his teammates, but Wilfork understands this is the business part of the NFL. New England is no stranger to contract staredowns. The Patriots have had them in recent years with Richard Seymour, Deion Branch, and Asante Samuel.
"This is the business part," said Wilfork. "I hate it. I hate not being with my family on the field, but at the same time it's a business decision. I have to look out for Vince Wilfork. That's the bottom line. That's what it comes down to."
A svelte-looking Wilfork repeatedly said he's working out, and stressed that no matter how long he's absent he'll be ready to play when he returns.
In the meantime, Wilfork, whose late father, David, was a diabetic, is focused on the raffle, which can be found at www.celebritiesforcharity.org/raffles. It closes June 30.
By that time, Wilfork hopes there is some movement by the Patriots. He certainly expects a resolution in time for the start of the season.
"I'll be playing, of course," he said. "I'm going to play football, hopefully for the New England Patriots . . . That's 100 percent true. Unless something changes, that's the way I see it - I see Vince Wilfork putting on a Patriots uniform this season. So, we'll see."
While Wilfork hasn't been in Foxborough lately, it is ultimately where he wants to be.
"I don't want to go anywhere," he said. "They know that. I don't want to leave this place. I said when I was drafted here I want to be here until the end of my career, and I'm sticking to that. I don't care how bumpy the road gets, that's where I stand."
Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.