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Wilfork on D&H: ‘We’ve got enough leadership in that locker room’

03.10.10 at 12:17 pm ET
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Fresh off signing a five-year, $40 million contract to remain in New England, Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork joined Dale & Holley Wednesday to talk about the deal and his thoughts about what the Patriots need to do to bounce back from last season’s disappointing finish. (To listen to the complete audio of the interview, click here.)

Wilfork said that he was confident the two sides could work out a deal once the Patriots called him after they put the franchise tag on him. “I think we had a rollercoaster road of us being traded, us not being here,” he said. “Whatever it was, it did cross our mind. I think the most recent was when I did get the tag, the five minutes they tagged me. But once that five minutes was up we got on the phone and started talking and they basically told me what the whole franchise tag was for was to buy more time for a long-term relationship.”

He commented that Robert Kraft had a role in helping finish the deal. “Personally [Robert] Kraft reached out to me himself; we had conversations ourselves,” Wilfork said. “He stuck to his word and I appreciate him doing that. He stuck with his guns and we stuck with our guns, and at the end of the day we came as one and got this deal done together. Kraft has a lot to do with that.”

Going forward, he said he thinks that the Patriots have to get back to playing their type of football. According to Wilfork, the Patriots did not face adversity well last season. “I think we’€™ve got a great bunch of guys, I think we like winning, but when things go wrong how do you fight adversity?” he said. “When things go wrong ‘€”if you are down in the fourth quarter ‘€” are you just going to lay down and give the ballgame away? Because I know this team, I remember a time when we used to go on the road and win. I remember a time when we used to be in a tough situation and pull it out. I remember a time when we used to be a great situational football team and last year we didn’€™t do that.”

Wilfork also touched on his leadership role with the team. He said that, “Whatever we have to step on the field in training camp or offseason workouts, whatever we have as soon as they step through that door we are going to let them know how it is run. And that is how it is going to be run from here on out. We all need each other and we want 100 percent every day. If you can’€™t give us that, you can’€™t play. Point blank. And I’€™ve got no problem with telling Bill, or telling the player, ‘€œYou aren’€™t giving me your all, so I don’€™t want you on the field with me.’€

A transcript of the interview is below. To listen, click here.

Was there ever a point where you thought, ‘€˜Hey, this isn’€™t going to happen.’€™

You know, I think we had a rollercoaster road of us being traded, us not being here. Whatever it was, it did cross our mind. I think the most recent was when I did get the tag, the five minutes they tagged me. But once that five minutes was up we got on the phone and started talking and they basically told me what the whole franchise tag was for was to buy more time for a long-term relationship. At that point, I kind of figured it was going to get done and all the negatives turned into positives. I think both sides really clamped down ‘€” with the time that the tag gave us ‘€” and really worked well together hand-in-hand and knocked it out. I didn’€™t know it was going to get done as quick. As soon as we had that conversation on, ‘€œA tag has been put on for’€¦’€ the reason they gave me, I was like, ‘€˜I can roll with that. I can respect that, I can understand that.’€™ I think we twittered something about it and you know what, we got a deal done. At that point we were very positive that we would get something done, we just didn’€™t know how long it was going to take. We didn’€™t know it was going to be that quick, but they got it done.

As far as 3-4 nose tackles, I don’€™t think the Patriots paid you as a good player ‘€” they paid you as a great player. Do you agree with that?

I always consider myself as a defensive lineman. I really don’€™t try to put a position on me. I’€™m a defensive lineman; I’€™ve always said that and I’€™ve been used in many types of ways playing for the Patriots. Everybody knows that we play all different types of defenses, so I always consider myself a defensive lineman, But you know what, the money was good. I think the contract worked out for both sides. Personally [Robert] Kraft reached out to me himself; we had conversations ourselves. He stuck to his word and I appreciate him doing that. Everything in the past ‘€” and different people had all types of speculation of what the Patriots were about ‘€” but they were honest with me from day one, saying they wanted to get a long-term deal. Something fair to both of us, and I think this was more than fair. And I really have to thank Kraft for that. He stuck with his guns and we stuck with our guns, and at the end of the day we came as one and got this deal done together. Kraft has a lot to do with that. Just the personal relationship that we have and the personal conversations we had, we always knew where things were going. At times it got frustrating, of course, but that is a negotiation. It was my first time going through a negotiation so I didn’€™t really know how to handle it. But from my side ‘€” with my agent and Bianca and myself ‘€” and from the Patriots organization with Bill [Belichick] and Nick [Caserio] and those guys, and Kraft and those guys, I think we worked hand-in-hand together to get something done. And I think we got it done at a pretty good pace, and I’€™m happy.

When did Bob Kraft first reach out to you, and do you believe that was the turning point in the negotiations?

Well, when I had questions I called. When they wanted to talk about something, he talked and it was a casual conversation. He always told me how much I meant to the team and Bill said the same thing. He knew what type of person I am, the player I am and they were always up front with me. I can’€™t judge with anybody else’€™s experience how they handle business, but like I said from my experience they did it well. Like I said, it got frustrating, but everything worked out and everybody was happy. We were all happy in the end and like I said, we were just happy to get it done.

Vince, what is your feeling about this team going into next season?

We’€™ve got to start from offseason workouts. That is where it is going to start. We’€™ve got to make the commitment to each other, what we expect out of each other. I don’€™t know if that is going to be a meeting or something we talk about in the workouts or in the locker room, but as players we definitely have to establish a level of trust and consistency going forward, and that is from day one. Guys have got to be playing for one thing, and that is to win. Guys have got to compete every week and every day, and that is the main thing. I think everything else will take care of itself. If we can be competitive, that is starting with the offseason and carrying that forward, I think we can be okay. But we have to build that trust with one another and everybody has to be playing for one thing. Because if you are not giving me your all, we have a problem because at the end of the day we all play this game for ourselves, our family and the fans and everything. But we are the ones who have to go through training camp, have to go through two-a-days, we are the ones stuck with each other for a three-four month period and have to see each other’€™s ugly mugs everyday, so we are the ones that have to have fun and take care of this and put out a good effort on Sunday. So the more people that we get to understand that when we take the field, I think the better we will be as a whole. And we will just go from there. Everybody’€™s level of play will have to increase and guys will have to step up, and like I said that is going to start with offseason training.

You talked about leadership. Would you ever look a player in the face and say, ‘€œYou’€™re not giving your all, you’€™ve got a problem with me.’€

Oh yeah, that is no question. Guys on this team, I think people were used to seeing the old leaders we had and now they are not here. People are not so used to seeing as many young leaders as it is because we had those old leaders. But it didn’€™t take these guys seven, eight, nine years to become leaders; some of these guys were leaders in the third year, fourth year, my seventh year, so you see a whole new breed coming through. But I think we’€™ve got enough leadership in that locker room, I truly do, and probably from every position. I think there are some guys who have that leadership ability and they really don’€™t know they have it. And that is one thing we have to get established. I think going forward a lot of guys, we are going to have to get on the same page. And if we get on the same page and people understand what is expected of them and know it is not time to play around when it is time to work, I think we’€™ll be fine. I think we’€™ve got a great bunch of guys, I think we like winning, but when things go wrong how do you fight adversity? When things go wrong ‘€”if you are down in the fourth quarter ‘€” are you just going to lay down and give the ballgame away? Because I know this team, I remember a time when we used to go on the road and win. I remember a time when we used to be in a tough situation and pull it out. I remember a time when we used to be a great situational football team and last year we didn’€™t do that. And I think that is one thing where have to get back to, and that is doing things the way we know how to. Last year we didn’€™t do that, and we paid for it. It first starts with being a tough, smart football team and then go from there. And we have to be able to win on the road. We have to have a consistency to playing football. We can’€™t mess up one thing, from day one, and then the 14th week mess up the same thing. That’€™s not consistency; you’€™re not getting better like that. But there are a lot of things that go into it. I think at this point we all need to get on the same page, and like I said that is going to start with offseason programs. We are all going to get on the same page, we are all going to get to know how we feel about each other and we are all going to want to win on Sunday. We prepare now for it; we don’€™t wait until August or September for that, we prepare for that now. So I’€™m looking forward to it, looking forward to seeing my teammates. It has been a long offseason and I’€™m ready to get back to work and like I said I’€™m happy to be back in New England.

You’€™ve seen in a number of sports, guys who get big contracts and their production goes down. How do you maintain that hunger and competitive fire?

I’€™ve always said the day I don’€™t have that fire and that drive in me where I can play at a high level is the day I’€™ve got to give it up. And I’€™m far from that. I’€™m just different; I like what I do, I love to win. I love football and I’€™m the same person that I was three months ago, a year ago, two years ago. I’€™m the same person; just because I’€™ve got a little wealthier pocket doesn’€™t change anything for me. Financially it does, but as far as playing and being the everyday person that I am, that will not change a bit. Because who I am is my personality and I will not change my personality. I’€™m not trying to change and show a different side of me because I wear my attitude on my sleeve, I wear my passion on my sleeve even when I talk at times. So whatever I do, you know it. I put it out there; I say what I think and what I believe because that is who I am and I’€™ll always be that way. The last thing I want is my teammates looking at me and being like, ‘€œMan, V, you are letting us down.’€ That will not happen as long as I’€™m playing football. When I know it is that time and my body knows it, it is time for me to give it up. But I’€™m far from that right now. Money won’€™t change the person that I am, and you can believe that.

I’€™m thrilled with the guys this team has brought back, but I also think this organization needs to look outside to get some help. Are you convinced that they are going to do that?

I don’€™t know. I don’€™t know that area, but I know with what we have right now ‘€” the guys in that locker room and the guys that we brought back ‘€” they understand what we expect out of them. Leigh [Bodden], last year was his first year with us and Tully [Banta-Cain], this is his second year back with us but he was with us before, so he understand what we need. Steve [Neal] has been around with us for a long time, so he understands what we need. You are looking at a couple of leaders right there that understand what this ballclub needs, so they are going to have to step up. As far as going outside to bring people in, that is for the organization. I can’€™t talk on that because I really don’€™t know what they are thinking. But whatever we have to step on the field in training camp or offseason workouts, whatever we have as soon as they step through that door we are going to let them know how it is run. And that is how it is going to be run from here on out. We all need each other and we want 100 percent every day. If you can’€™t give us that, you can’€™t play. Point blank. And I’€™ve got no problem with telling Bill, or telling the player, ‘€œYou aren’€™t giving me your all, so I don’€™t want you on the field with me.’€ I don’€™t have a problem saying that, point blank. What we are trying to accomplish and what we are trying to be, we are going to need 11 guys on defense, 11 guys on offense and 11 guys on special team doing that. And if you can’€™t do that, you can’€™t be on the field with us. I don’€™t think I’€™m the only one that feels that way; there are a bunch of guys in that locker room that feel like that. There are a lot of guys that football means something to so you’€™ve got to weed out the guys who are really not there for football. And don’€™t worry, we will find who it is and they will be put on front street. And there is nothing wrong with that, we are just being honest. We’€™ve got to get this thing turned around because for the six years I’€™ve been here, going on seven years, probably last year was one of the worst years that we’€™ve had in awhile. We shouldn’€™t have been that bad, but we are going to have to get that changed around and we are going to have to compete and put trust in one another. I think we are going to get off to a great start, and if we get off to a good star, good things lead to other things. So if we get off to a good start we will go from there.

Your contract has some weight clauses in there. Was that an aspect that was contentious in any way?

No, I mean I’€™ve never had a problem being out of shape. Never. Anybody in the offseason will gain weight ‘€” I’€™ll let you know right now I’€™m not 325. It is the offseason. But I’€™ve never had a problem with a weight issue. I’€™ve never been out of condition. I’€™ve always pass my physical, I always pass my conditioning test and I always play at a top level. I always am in good shape. That was something just to keep me grounded, and that is good because health is everything. I’€™m fine with that. Like I said, if I had a problem with that contract, I wouldn’€™t have signed it. But like I said, that wasn’€™t a big deal for me because I know who I am. I know what I am capable of doing and I know what my body can take and when it can take it. I know when to lose it, I know when to gain it, I know my body. That is not a problem and the Patriots don’€™t have a problem with my weight either. The 325 that I am on Sundays, that is what I am. I might look different at 325, but hey, I carry my weight in my stomach. Of course I’€™m going to look different. If I don’€™t have a belly, guess what? I wouldn’€™t be Vince Wilfork, you’€™d be calling me somebody else. That is what makes me, but at the same time I’€™ve ever had a problem with a weight issue. And I was very clear and they were very clear at the same time. That was just something to put in there for health issues because my father and my mother ‘€” my family is a big family, and that is just natural. I’€™m pretty sure there are a lot of families out there that are just big families and it runs in my family. Diabetes runs in my family, high blood pressure runs in my family. It is safe to say that I am totally healthy, so that is just keeping the health aspect in there as well. The older you get, the harder it gets. I’€™m fine with it and like I said, if I had a problem with the contract I wouldn’€™t have signed it. So it wasn’€™t a big deal.

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