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Despite unhappiness with contract, DT Wilfork reports to Pats' minicamp

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Vince Wilfork reported to the New England Patriots' mandatory minicamp Wednesday because his contract requires it. He'd still like a new one.

Wilfork, one of the NFL's best nose tackles, practiced on the first day of New England's three-day minicamp after he skipped all 12 voluntary organized team activities in May and June.

2008 Statistics
Tackles: 66

Solo: 45

Sacks: 2

"I signed to a six-year deal," Wilfork said. "I'm going to meet all my obligations, and that's being here on mandatory stuff.

"I'm still a Patriot, and I want to be a Patriot."

Wilfork is due $2.2 million in the final season of the contract that he signed after the Patriots drafted him with the 21st overall pick out of Miami (Fla.) in 2004. He had said Monday that he wants a contract that would make him comfortable but that he's not demanding "the best contract there is."

About 30 other Patriots have contracts expiring at the end of this season. Wilfork, though, wants to have his future settled and said he's positive about how it will work out.

"Six years in, and I want to get locked up (in a contract) because I don't want to go on the free market," he said. "It's a possibility if I reach that part, I won't be here, and I don't want that to happen."

Wilfork had some uncertainty about whether to show up but said "I felt it was best for me to come out here, and it was best for this organization to know that I'm out here."

 Patriots owner Robert Kraft 

Both sides said there's no bad blood and publicly are taking an amicable approach. Wilfork said the possibility that he would forfeit money if he didn't report didn't play a big role in his decision. He also said he didn't care that attending minicamp might hurt his bargaining power.

"They know who I am as a person and a player," Wilfork said, "so that doesn't mean anything to me."

He hopes his presence will spark negotiations.

"Who knows what the future holds?" Wilfork said. "I'll be practicing with my teammates, and I'll be doing everything in my willpower I can do to stay around here."

Wilfork made the Pro Bowl in the 2007 season and started all 32 regular-season games the past two years and 67 of the 77 he has played with the Patriots.

"Vince Wilfork is a great guy, and every year, we have these business issues that have to get worked out," Patriots owner Robert Kraft said. "One way or another, they'll get worked out, and, hopefully, Vince will be here for the long term."

Last year, Wilfork met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after the Denver Broncos said tape of New England's 41-7 victory Oct. 20 showed him elbowing quarterback Jay Cutler in the helmet. In 2007, Wilfork was fined a total of $35,000 for four different incidents.

Wilfork isn't known as a dirty player and is a key to the Patriots' 3-4 defense. At 27 years old, he is the youngest of the team's top four defensive linemen.

Wilfork missed being able to practice at the voluntary workouts but said "it wasn't the right time for me to be here. But now everything is starting to crank up, mandatory stuff, and now my team really needs me, so I'll be here."

"I hate the business part," Wilfork said. "I love the football."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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