FOXBOROUGH — Veteran defensive tackle Vince Wilfork may be coming off the first injury-shortened season of his career, but to him, training camp hearkens back to the lyrics sung by David Byrne of the Talking Heads, circa 1980: Same as it ever was.
"It's the same as always, just come here [and] grind," Wilfork said to the media after the Patriots' first practice of training camp on Thursday. "I know camp is always tough. You have a lot of stuff going in, you have different people, different coaches, different times of days that we're doing things, we're working on the pass, we're working on the run, so it's always a grind. If you put your mind to it and you just grind each day and try to get better each day, then you know what? Good things will happen. So I did the same thing. This is the same thing I want to do every year, is to come here, prepare for the best, and hopefully we'll get better as a team and grow as a unit, and do some good things, but it starts now."
A good start would be nice after a sluggish finish last season when Wilfork and Tommy Kelly went down. The Patriots were short-handed at defensive tackle, with undrafted rookies Chris Jones (780 snaps), Joe Vellano (664), and Sealver Siliga (218) earning significant playing time in Wilfork's stead.
The Patriots have also added some defensive linemen to the group, including first-round pick Dominique Easley and sixth-round pick Zach Moore in the 2014 NFL draft.
"Those guys grew a lot — from the guys that stepped up last year and the guys that are coming in," Wilfork said. "Every year, we try to make the smooth transition and Bill does a real good job of teaching guys how we play, how we do things around here, so it won't be hard for those guys to catch on. They've been doing a real good job, haven't had any problems out of nobody, and everybody's excited. If you stay excited, good things will happen."
Wilfork was not short on energy in the opening practice of training camp. The Patriots were running a no-huddle drill at the end of practice, and Wilfork — in a jersey so soaked in sweat that the navy blue appeared black from the adjacent hill — participated in every snap, hurrying back to the line even as the offense hurried to beat the defense to the punch.
No lack of wind in those sails.
Even with camp and the excitement of a new season, Wilfork isn't shy to admit that the excitement wears off after time.
"You catch me in probably two more weeks, I'll probably say I'm ready for it to be over, but right now, we're happy for it to begin. The season has begun, so now, it's time for us to put the work in and become a better football team."