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Wilfork tackled problem

Answer: Play through contract uncertainty

By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / December 31, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Vince Wilfork learned Tuesday that he made the Pro Bowl for the second time, and this time was most gratifying. Before the season, the Patriots nose tackle could have held out for a contract extension, knowing he will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end.

But he played through the uncertainty, and during a news conference yesterday, he said he was happy that he had.

“Never being in this situation before, it was a problem, and I could have talked to hundreds of people about it,’’ Wilfork said. “I talked to certain people and everyone had different answers. It basically boiled down to what I want to do and what’s best for my family and me.

“My wife put it on my shoulders. She said, ‘What’s best for you? You make the decisions.’ She knows how much I love football and right then and there, I said, ‘You know what? It’s football.’

“I am a true believer in everything working itself out, and I am sticking behind that. Once I put that behind me, it was behind me. I didn’t look back and I don’t have any regrets. If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing.’’

Wilfork said he will address his contract situation at the end of the season. For now, his primary aim is getting back on the field. Wilfork has missed the past two games with a foot injury. Yesterday, he was limited during practice.

“I’ll be back sooner rather than later,’’ Wilfork said. “I am getting better day to day.’’

On an honor roll
The morning after he was named to his fifth Pro Bowl, Tom Brady earned another pair of honors.

The NFL named him AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Jaguars, when he completed 23 of 26 passes and threw for four touchdowns. It was the third time this season and 15th time in his career that Brady was named Player of the Week.

Brady also won the Ed Block Courage Award, which is given to one player on each of the 32 teams. The award is voted on by teammates and goes to “the player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration.’’ Brady returned this season after a devastating knee injury knocked him out for all but one half of a quarter last year.

Brady’s opposite number this week will have an uncommon familiarity with him. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, the NFL’s leader in passing yardage, watches tape of Brady at the urging of coach Gary Kubiak.

“As I’m raising Matt, I’m showing him a lot of Tom’s film and how he handles things, how he plays the game - footwork-wise, poise-wise,’’ Kubiak said. “I mean, he’s the model guy. He’s the model player and handles himself with a great deal of class.

“Those are the guys that play a long time in this league and are successful. There’s nobody better for Matt to keep an eye on, week in and week out, year to year.’’

No guessing
The Texans have played the 14-1 Colts twice this season, and yet Kubiak called the Patriots “the best football team we’ve played, the deepest football team we’ve played this year.’’

With that in mind, Kubiak said, he has not spent much time guessing which team Bill Belichick will employ Sunday: the starting squad or mostly backups.

“We’ve got to stay focused on ourselves,’’ Kubiak said. “Bill’s got a great football team. They’re very, very deep. I just watched their performance last week against Jacksonville. I mean, this team is ready to make a run towards another world championship.’’

As far as preparation, Kubiak said, it does not matter which personnel the Patriots use. He knows Belichick is capable of using a multitude of defensive schemes. He believes it is more important to study how the Patriots will play rather than whom they will play.

“We’re preparing to play their team, what they do offensively, defensively, special teams,’’ Kubiak said. “We’ve got to prepare for their scheme. Bill presents so many problems. I’ve been going against him for so many years. You don’t know if you’re going to go against a three-man front, a four-man front. We have no idea. We’ve got our work cut out this week.’’

Welker on Leach
The strange saga of Texas Tech coach Mike Leach’s firing hit Wes Welker, who played for Leach. “It’s hard for me to really say anything about it because I don’t have all the facts and I don’t really know everything that went on,’’ said Welker. “I just go off my previous experience from being at Texas Tech. Coach Leach and the rest of the coaching staff was always great to me, to my teammates, and everything like that. I never really experienced anything that I guess went on or whatever. It’s unfortunate and we wish him the best.’’ . . . Belichick moved practice ahead this week so players can adjust to Sunday’s start time, which will be noon in Houston . . . Neither Brady nor Randy Moss participated in practice. Welker was limited for non-injury reasons, a sign the Patriots are scaling back his workload.

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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