Wilfork returns to Patriots camp
He'd still like a new one.
Wilfork, one of the NFL's best nose tackles, practiced on the first day of New England's three-day minicamp after skipping all 12 voluntary organized team activities in May and June.
"I signed to a six-year deal. I'm going to meet all my obligations and that's being here on mandatory stuff," he said. "I'm still a Patriot and I want to be a Patriot."
Wilfork is due $2.2 million in the final season of the contract he signed after the Patriots drafted him with the 21st pick out of Miami in 2004. He had said Monday that he wants a contract that would make him comfortable but that he's not demanding "the best contract there is."
About 30 other Patriots have contracts expiring at the end of this season. Wilfork, though, wants to get his future settled and said he's positive about how it will work out.
"Six years in and I want to get locked up [in a contract] because I don't want to go on the free market," he said. "It's a possibility if I reach that part, I won't be here and I don't want that to happen."
He had some uncertainty about whether to show up but said "I felt it was best for me to come out here and it was best for this organization to know that I'm out here."
Both sides said there's no bad blood and publicly are taking an amicable approach. Wilfork said the possibility he would forfeit money if he didn't report didn't play a big role in his decision. He also said he didn't care that attending minicamp might hurt his bargaining power.
"They know who I am as a person and a player," he said, "so that doesn't mean anything to me."
He hopes his presence will spark negotiations.
"Who knows what the future holds?" Wilfork said. "I'll be practicing with my teammates and I'll be doing everything in my willpower I can do to stay around here."
The 325-pound Wilfork made the Pro Bowl in the 2007 season and started all 32 regular-season games the past two years and 67 of the 77 he's played with the Patriots.
"Vince Wilfork is a great guy and every year we have these business issues that have to get worked out," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "One way or another, they'll get worked out and, hopefully, Vince will be here for the long term."
Last year, Wilfork met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the Denver Broncos said tape of New England's 41-7 win Oct. 20 showed him elbowing quarterback Jay Cutler in the helmet. In 2007, he was fined a total of $35,000 for four different incidents.
Wilfork's not known as a dirty player and is a key to the Patriots' 3-4 defense. At 27 years old, he is the youngest of the team's top four defensive linemen.
He missed being able to practice at the voluntary workouts but said, "It wasn't the right time for me to be here. But now everything is starting to crank up, mandatory stuff, and now my team really needs me, so I'll be here."
"I hate the business part," he said. "I love the football."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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