Defensive lineman Vince Wilfork, second only to Tom Brady in terms of Patriots tenure, quickly shot down the notion that Super Bowl XLIX was his final game Thursday.
“The way I feel, there’s no way in the world this is my last season,” Wilfork, 33, said on WEEI after being told broadcaster Cris Collinsworth wondered if Wilfork would call it quits. “I worked too hard to get back to this level. My body feels good, so I doubt this is my last year. The things I’ve done in my career, where I’m headed, I still have a lot of football left in me, that’s how I feel.
“Till I don’t feel like that, then I’ll say maybe it’s a chance to walk away. It might be easy for somebody like myself, come back off injury [he tore his Achilles’ in Week 4 of the 2013 season], get another Super Bowl ring, easy to say, ‘I’m good, I started my career with a ring, I’ll end my career with a ring.’ I could call it quits, it’s easy for people to say that, but I’m already looking forward to next year to see if we can do it again.”
Wilfork, a rookie when the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXIX after the 2004 season, was fully healthy for training camp and played in all 19 games. He was on the field for more than 70 percent of the defensive snaps.
A longtime captain, Wilfork said last Sunday’s 28-24 win over Seattle was the best of his career, because of everything the Patriots had gone through during the season, not the least of which was the two weeks of Deflategate drama.
“We proved a lot of people wrong,” he said.
Wilfork recalled that he told some teammates during training camp that it was possible for them to be champions.
“We were in the sun stretching and I said, ‘if we play well enough this year, I guarantee we’ll be Super Bowl champs. But we have to be committed to winning, to sacrificing. That was in the beginning of training camp,” Wilfork said. “Those same guys came back to me after the game and said, ‘you told us what we had to do.’ You can never replace hard work.”
The future is now
The Patriots signed nine of their 2014 practice squad players to futures contracts: offensive linemen Chris Barker and Caylin Hauptmann, defensive lineman Jake Bequette, quarterback Garrett Gilbert, defensive backs Justin Green and Dax Swanson, wide receiver Jonathan Krause, and linebackers Eric Martin and Deontae Skinner . . . Fans can take pictures the Lombardi Trophy this weekend at Patriot Place with standard Hall of Fame admission . . . Bill Belichick will appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman” on Wednesday.