|After nine years with Patriots, Vince Wilfork comes to camp slimmer, ‘excited’ to be back||07.26.12 at 6:10 pm ET|
FOXBORO — One day of Patriots training camp is in the books, and for the players at Gillette Stadium’s practice fields on Thursday, it was the first step of a long road back to a much-anticipated regular season that begins in just over a month.
But while several players on the roster took in their first day of camp — learning the new schemes and playbooks — it was no different for All-Pro defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. Wilfork, who is entering his ninth season in Foxboro, is one of just four players remaining from the Patriots team that won Super Bowl XXXIX.
Still, while Wilfork knows his way around Gillette Stadium, the veteran was excited to start getting back at it for another year, one filled with a laundry list full of expectations after last season’s Super Bowl loss.
“First day is the first day — you know, get the rust off,” Wilfork said. “I’m happy to be back out here and do something we all love to do, [which] is play football. We’re back at it. It kind of came quick, so that’s a good thing. We’re real excited. The first day is exciting.
“Camp is always camp. I just remember coming in as a rookie and having all of the veterans around me — Willie McGinest, Roman Phifer, Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Corey Dillon. … After a while you start realizing that I’ve been around for a little bit, but it’s always the same. You’re always excited to come back and start playing this game.”
While Wilfork was excited to get back on the field with the team Thursday, it wasn’t before an individually hard-working offseason. The 30-year-old arrived in Foxboro noticeably slimmer, something he shrugged off as no big deal after practice.
“I’m just getting in shape getting ready to play some football,” Wilfork said. “That’s my main goal. I took my offseason real serious like I do each year.
“I dropped a couple of pounds. It’s not a big deal.”
Wilfork, who came into camp listed at 325 pounds, was sold on the idea that as players age, the harder it gets to excel at the level they’re expected to be. He said he wanted to make sure his weight wasn’t a road block in trying to stay at his Pro Bowl-caliber form, one that helped him to 3½ sacks, 52 combined tackles and his first two career interceptions last season.
“I just wanted to make sure I’m in tip-top shape,” Wilfork said. “Coming in for nine years, I just wanted to make sure I have good conditioning up in me and my body feels good. And you know, it does. That’s the area I took advantage of this offseason and it paid off.
“Being in the game a long time, I just wanted to make sure it doesn’t become a problem — which it never has — but the older you get, they say the worse you get, so we’ll see.”
After the Patriots’ close Super Bowl loss to the Giants in February, at least one analyst has predicted New England to go 16-0 this season, something Wilfork would rather not talk about.
“I don’t pay attention to any of that. I really don’t,” he said. “Like I said, my goal is to come out here each day and get better, help my teammates, help this organization. Win games, that’s the bottom line.”
Wilfork has already put last season far behind in his rearview mirror.
“That’s last year,” Wilfork said. “That’s something we’re not focused on. Our goal is every day now. This is a new season, new team. We have guys that weren’t here last year. You can’t dwell on what happened in the past.
“You have to move forward. Each year is different. We’ve got 32 teams and all of us are starting from the same position. We just have to use every day as a steppingstone. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re not paying attention to the future or what happened in the past. We just have to pay attention to what’s going on now.”
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