Nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who is entering the sixth and final year of the contract he signed before his rookie season, has been absent from the Patriots' recent organized team activities and appeared to be sending a pointed message about his frustration with his contract status.
During an event this afternoon at Yale Appliance in Dorchester to promote a charitable endeavor, Wilfork, who will carry a $2.2 million base salary this season, matter-of-factly addressed his status with the team. While he didn't supply much in the way of definitive answers, he did say he expects to play for the Patriots this season.
"Oh yeah, I'll be playing, of course," he said. "I'm going to play football, hopefully for the New England Patriots. Right now, [it's] for the New England Patriots. I'm playing football. That's 100 percent true. Unless something changes that's the way I see it -- I see Vince Wilfork putting on a Patriots uniform this season. So, we'll see."
When asked what should be read into his no-show at the voluntary OTAs, he replied, "My absence doesn't mean anything. I'm pretty sure the ball is going to roll with me or without me. That's the nature of the business, so the ball is going to continue to roll on.
"But one thing I can assure you all is that I will be playing this season as a New England Patriot, unless something changes," he continued. "I'm looking forward to the season. I'm getting better. Just because you don't see me I'm working. I'm getting better."
But Wilfork said he was unsure whether he would show up to any other team activities if he doesn't not have a new contract.
"We'll see. I don't know right now. I've never been in this situation before," he said. "I've never been out of football before. I don't know how this works. I don't know if I'm doing it the right way or the wrong way. I'm pretty sure I could ask a lot of guys in that locker room and all of them would give me different answers. So, I'm doing it the best way I can do it. That's what I'm going to do. My main thing is that Vince Wilfork is looking out for Vince Wilfork, point-blank. Whatever it may be. If it calls for me to miss something I'm going to miss it because I look towards the future. That's how I'm going to roll. Something may change in a couple of days, something might not change. I'll take it day by day. I'm looking out for my family and myself. That's the bottom line."
He said right now his absence is a day-to-day thing.
"I may pop up. I may not," he said. "I don't know. I'm staying positive with everything. As far as people that are wondering what's going on with me let me just assure you that I'll be ready to play football. I'm a professional and I look forward to playing football."
Wilfork said he was unsure if there have been any recent discussions between his agent and the Patriots.
"I'll let them handle that. I try to stay out of that," he said. "That's his line of work and I let him handle his business and we go forward from there. He may call me tomorrow with something different, who knows. Whatever it may be I'm a professional at the end of the day. I'm always going to be a professional. When it's time to play I'll be ready to play.
"I know where I want to be. They know where I want to be. I miss my teammates. I miss playing football, but who knows? It's going to take it's course. Let it take it's course. Let it do what it do. It's nothing much to ready into. It's nothing much to make a big deal about. That's all I can tell you is it's not a big deal right now."
Wilfork noted that the business side of football is something new to him, and while he's "not losing any sleep" over his situation, he's not enjoying himself, either.
"A lot of people see on Sundays us having fun playing football, but it's there is a business part to it also. This is the business part," he said. "I hate it. I hate not being with my family on the field, but at the same time it's a business decision. I have to look out for Vince Wilfork. That's the bottom line. That's what it comes down to."
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At today's appearance, Wilfork grilled healthy chicken and fish meals to promote diabetes awareness and his upcoming charity raffle that benefits the Vince Wilfork Foundation, Joslin Diabetes Center and the Diabetes Research Institute. The raffle is online and closes on June 30. Wilfork's father, David Sr., was a diabetic and passed away in 2002.
Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report.