So how about here … This team that struggled so mightily in 2009 to replace the nearly-decade-long leadership provided by Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi seems to have found a new, powerful voice for a locker room that was starting to show cracks.
And he comes from within. See, where Wilfork’s future was so uncertain before all this played itself out, and even though he has been a leader in his own way in the past, he now knows he’ll be here for a long time to come and that clears him to become the guiding light this team so sorely needs. He’s willing, able, and ready, it appears, to assume that role.
“As players, we’re going to have to start in the offseason training, and basically, everybody is going to have to be accountable,” Wilfork said. “If you’re on the field, you have to give me 100 percent. Always. We have to weed out the bad seeds, point blank. If you can’t give me what I’m giving you on the field, I don’t need you on the field with me. Point blank. That’s how you win. You got to build trust. Show me that I can trust you. …
“I led by example (before), but now all of us, we rise our level. … If you don’t want to win, you don’t have to be here.”
Quite honestly, and I put this up on Twitter, I couldn’t help but think of Wilfork as a Miami Hurricane at that moment. Vince has always had a rep as a “program guy”, whether it was in Coral Gables, or in Foxborough, and it was easy to wonder if that hurt him from a business standpoint in the past few months, particularly when he decided to attend mandatory minicamp last June after missing most of the offseason program. I certainly had that thought.
And that’s not to denigrate Vince. It’s who he is, and that figures to be a powerful asset for the Patriots for years to come.
He did his job, adhered to the program and, without having to stage a high-profile holdout, got the big-time, long-term deal that all players want coming off his rookie deal. That he might be the first Patriot in this regime to have things play out that way should work to keep other younger guys on board if contract tumult comes in their own situations.
Here’s the message, directly from Vince, that represents the team’s peripheral benefit in this situation:
“This team goes through a lot every year to win. They make decisions based on what’s best for the team. I can only speak on my whole experience. Yes, there were ups and downs, and it was frustrating, and there were times when I thought it was close and things fell part. There were all types of mixed emotions to the whole thing. But at the end of the day, they kept their word to me. … They kept it real with me.”
We’ll have more from Wilfork, and his personal side of this whole thing, in a little while.