ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Vince Wilfork situation is a weird one for the Patriots. For years he's been the fulcrum of Bill Belichick's defense. But he's older, heading into the final year of his contract, isn't interested in taking a pay cut and reportedly wants his outright release.
Robert Kraft certainly doesn't want it to come to that and he's "not giving up hope" that Wilfork will stick around. The Patriots owner spoke glowingly of Wilfork as one of his "personal favorites" with the Patriots, while also pointing out he understands this game is a "business."
"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 said. "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."
That's high praise for Wilfork. Bruschi, et al, are all-time great Patriots. They're the guys who took Kraft's franchise into the upper echelon of the NFL.
But this isn't too far a cry from where we were with Kraft last year, when he last spoke about one of his favorite players at the owners' meetings. Except then everyone was in Phoenix and Kraft was talking about Wes Welker, who was already gone. (Welker took, per Kraft, less money to go with the Broncos over the Pats.)
Wilfork is under contract for 2013 but the Patriots, after signing Darrelle Revis, aren't sitting on a ton of cap space. Reworking his deal would be an ideal situation for them, but at this stage it's clear that Wilfork has no interest in taking a pay cut.
That means one of two things is going to happen. He's either going to play out the last year of his deal or the Patriots will release him. The latter seems like it could be more likely at this point, but it's clearly not something Kraft wants to happen.