Talk of next contract not his deal
Wilfork focuses on job at hand
FOXBOROUGH - The words bring a sour look to Vince Wilfork’s face.
Is it true that the six-year deal Wilfork signed prior to his rookie year expires this winter? Yes, it is.
Does it have anything to do with his stellar play through eight weeks of the 2009 season? Don’t bother asking the defensive lineman.
“Me, I’m a ballplayer,’’ Wilfork said yesterday. “Since I signed up to play football, I played from the time I got in it to the time I’ll retire. Not because it’s a contract year, that’s not me. And I think guys who do that, that’s . . . that’s not me.
“Guys who do that, I mean, it’s just my opinion, I don’t like it. I just control what I can control, I play football. That’s what I do for a living. You don’t have to worry about me playing just because it’s my last year, because that’s not the case. I want to get better each year.’’
And that was the motivation behind a sign taped to a shelf in Wilfork’s locker at Gillette Stadium. It reads, “Do Your Job,’’ in big block letters, a note Wilfork wrote to himself after a film session following the Patriots’ loss to the Jets in September.
Wilfork sat out much of the offseason conditioning program, and organized team activities in the spring, a move linked to his lack of a contract extension, before reporting for mandatory minicamp in June. The sign was an effort, on Wilfork’s part, to remain on task.
“A lot of things going on earlier with me and with my contract, that was one thing I wanted to make clear to myself,’’ Wilfork said. “So every time I come to my locker, I remind myself what I’m here for. That’s to do my job.
“That’s one thing just to remind me, because I have to sit at this locker every day, so I have to see that every day. Every time I see that, it reminds me what I’m doing, why I’m here.’’
Wilfork said it can also serve to help teammates, saying it “might be rubbing off on some of the other guys.’’
He provided perhaps the best example last Sunday. In the win over Miami, his role was altered - moving from nose tackle to right end - and his workload was increased.
He played more than 80 percent of the defensive snaps for the first time since the opener against Buffalo, and was charged with taking on mammoth Dolphins left tackle Jake Long, a largely thankless job.
In doing so, Wilfork proved his versatility, and once again debunked the idea that he’s only a two-down player, all while lining up at a position he hadn’t played since his rookie year.
“It was a little different,’’ Wilfork said. “But you have to adapt sometimes on the move, and that was something we talked about last week, me being out there [at end]. We got through it. Bill [Belichick] liked the matchup. Playing end against one of the best tackles in the game.’’
And what it did was prove once more that, even with money on the line with each play, Wilfork’s focus won’t waver.
“I just do what I can do to help my teammates,’’ he said. “That’s getting better each week. I try. Lord knows I try my best, because what I put out there on the field, I want my teammates to feed off of it.
“That’s one thing. I lead by example. I’m not a big talker. I let my work speak for myself.’’
Albert R. Breer can be reached at email@example.com.