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Wilfork trying to avoid 'distraction'; Mon. 8-22 notes

Posted Aug 22, 2011

One of New England's defensive leaders addresses an alleged scandal from his college days. Plus, news and notes from Monday's Patriots practice and locker room interviews.

He says he's looking forward, but briefly, he looked back.

Speaking publicly for the first time since being named in an improper benefits scandal at the University of Miami, Vince Wilfork elaborated a bit on the statement he released via his Twitter account last week.

"It's tough" said the Patriots defensive tackle of the past few days since Yahoo Sports broke the story about Wilfork's alma mater.

"I'm going to move forward. I'm done with that situation and I'm just focused on my football career. One thing I don't want to do is be a distraction to this team, to this organization. I won't be that."

The story, citing an imprisoned former booster of the Hurricanes' sports programs, claims that Wilfork and numerous other former Miami players received benefits from cash to goods to services totaling in the millions. Wilfork, specifically, was accused of receiving a lump-sum payment of $50,000 through the booster, Nevin Shapiro, and his agency, Axcess Sports.

"My teammates stuck behind me 100 percent, my family, the organization," Wilfork continued, "so, I'll move forward. I'm definitely toward the Detroit Lions now. It feels good to be around a great group of guys. Feels real good."    

Wilfork also acknowledged that while the defense has been playing a more aggressive style so far this preseason, holding opponents to 12 and 14 points in the first two games,
New England's defense is nowhere near finished making the transition to more of a 4-3 base.

"So far, so good, but it's a learning curve. We have a bunch of young guys, there are new things that we're doing on the field. It's not just the young guys starting off their career with something new, but also guys who've been around for a long time ... there are a couple things we have to learn.

"It probably looked good, but there are some things we screwed up out there," he added. "And at times when it looked bad, it probably wasn't that bad. A few mental things we have to address, technique is always an issue at this point. Especially now, coming in this late, missing the offseason program, mini-camps, and everything. Everybody's behind the 8-ball ... Long ways to go for this team, myself included."

Training camp and the public viewing portion of the preseason practices may be over - New England broke camp on Saturday - but for Wilfork and the Patriots, the next couple of weeks will have a camp-like feel. However, the third preseason game in the four-game format is traditionally the one where the regular starters see the most action. It is seen, therefore, as the most reliable indicator of where a team is in its development prior to the regular season opener.

Wilfork believes the aforementioned Lions, this week's opponent, will provide a valuable litmus test.

"Last week against Tampa, we put out some pretty good effort, but ... practice is tough. Bill always challenges us. We have to get ready for the Detroit Lions. That's a hungry football team. Hey, they're making some forward progress. Playing them last year on Thanksgiving, they gave us a pretty good fight. It's going to show a lot to see where we can be."

You look familiar ...

Over the weekend, New England reclaimed tight end Garrett Mills. You may recall that Mills was a fourth-round draft pick of the Patriots back in 2006. He spent nearly all of his rookie year on injured reserve and was released by New England after training camp the following summer.

The move was expected to be merely procedural, with the Patriots picking him right back up, but the Minnesota Vikings scooped Mills up and he remained with them till 2010, when he was released. He spent last season with Philadelphia and Cincinnati.

But it was the transition to Minnesota back in '07 that was the subject of some mild controversy between the Patriots and Vikes.

Talking with reporters in the locker room today, though, Mills said it was never that big a deal to him.

"Not really. I was never really caught in the middle of anything, in my eyes. I was released, went through the process of waivers, and got claimed, so, I went to Minnesota.

"But it's definitely exciting to be back here," Mills was quick to add.

Cuckoo for Kou-Kou

Newcomer Niko Koutouvides spent a few minutes with PFW in the locker room today. The linebacker has only been with the Patriots for about a week, but has already had an impact. When Dane Fletcher went down with a thumb injury against the Bucs last Thursday, Koutouvides stepped in and filled the void.

Though new to the Patriots, he has been in the NFL since being drafted by Seattle in the fourth round in 2004. He also played for Denver (2008) and Tampa Bay ('09-'10).

Among other topics, the 6-2, 238-pounder shared some of his nicknames.

Most people call him 'Kouty,' he revealed, but his favorite is 'Kou-Kou' (as in the sound a cuckoo clock makes).

You can read more about the interesting life stories and personal nuggets provided by Koutouvides and another new New England Patriot, safety James Ihedigbo, in next week's issue of Patriots Football Weekly, in our 'Getting to Know' segment.


For more on today's practice, please visit the PFW blog.

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