ORLANDO – During a break in the busy first day of the NFL Annual Meeting, Patriots owner Robert Kraft ducked out for a lunch break around 12:45 and spent the next 15 minutes or so fielding questions from the media.
The first topic was about the tenuous status of veteran defensive tackle and co-captain Vince Wilfork, who has asked the team to release him after 10 seasons. Wilfork is in the final year of a five-year contract that would count $11-plus million against New England's salary cap this season.
"You know, going back over the last 20 years, if I was to think, we've had some pretty special people come through and he is one of my personal favorites," Kraft began. "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 and I'm still not giving up hope that he'll be part of our team next year."
Kraft wouldn't say directly if he's spoken with Wilfork about his status with the team, but he left open the door, ever so slightly, for Wilfork's eventual return.
"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."
"Unfortunately you do. You know, for him, he's making some individual decisions. 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."
*What would you like the Patriots to do with Wilfork? Let us know with a comment below.