New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft puts Vince Wilfork, who has asked to be released by the team, in the same category as some other Patriots lifers and hopes that their relationship can continue.
"Going back over the last 20 years, we've had some pretty special people come through, and [Vince] is one of my personal favorites," Kraft said Monday, per ESPN Boston, at the NFL's owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Fla. "I'm thinking of Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown, they made their careers with us. I surely hope Vince will be with us next year.
"In modern-day athletics, in pro sports, it's a business as well as commitment to one another. We have to work through [this], and I'm still not giving up hope that he'll be part of our team next year."
And yet Wilfork has cleaned out his locker and ripped off his nameplate above it, per the Boston Herald, within the past few weeks.
The nose tackle is coming off a season-ending Achilles tear last season and is scheduled to earn $7.5 million in the final year of his contract, counting a whopping $11.6 million against the salary cap. The 32-year-old team captain was approached about reducing that number earlier this offseason, and he reportedly was offended by the financial terms the team offered.
The 2004 first-round pick has spent his entire NFL career in New England. Kraft has strong feelings about Wilfork, with whom he said he shares a personal relationship. But business has created a roadblock.
"For him, he's making some individual decisions," Kraft said. "For us, we have to put a team together of over 50 people. We have a salary cap. In the end, it's about both parties feeling it's a good transaction and it's a win-win. I think that's what we're both shooting for.
"We've been very close, and I'll let Vince speak to whatever he feels is appropriate. We're probably results-oriented, and life is about execution, so either we get it done or we don't. I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well. We've been so lucky to have him. So we'll see what happens."
But Kraft, making his first public comments on the matter since Wilfork's request, left the situation with a positive vibe and perhaps kept the door ajar for a return next season.
"I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well," Kraft said.
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