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Wilfork plans to stay focused through contract dispute

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said Saturday he won't let his contract dispute with the team affect his play on the field.

Wilfork, in the last year of a six-year contract he signed as a first-round draft pick out of Miami in 2004, said his future with the Patriots is "out of my control," referring to off-field negotiations.

2008 Statistics
Games/Starts: 16/16

Tackles: 66

Sacks: 2

He and his agent, Kennard McGuire, are upset that negotiations on a contract extension have been fruitless. Players drafted in Wilfork's position -- 21st in the first round -- are no longer allowed to sign contracts longer than five years.

"I will not let that (the negotiations) interfere with what I have going on in the field," Wilfork said.

Wilfork, who's 6-foot-2 and 325 pounds, is considered vastly underpaid by NFL standards. He has a base salary of $800,000 this season, but incentives will increase that to about $2.2 million, still far short of the going rate for established starting nose guards.

He has started 77 of 80 regular-season games in the past five years and in 2007 was named to the Pro Bowl and AP's All-Pro second team. In 2008, he was named a defensive captain and was second on the team in tackles.

Wilfork, unlike several Patriot veterans, has been present for each Patriot training camp workout thus far.

"If I'm healthy, I'll practice," he said.

That's not to say he loves the two-a-day practices coach Bill Belichick has scheduled for the first week of training camp.

"Two-a-days are tough," he said. "We don't like it, but we're going to get something out of it, and we're going to be a better football team."

Belichick has made no secret of his desire to continue to have Wilfork man the middle of his 3-4 defense. In a press conference Friday, he described Wilfork as a smart, strong and instinctive player.

"He has a good feel for blocking schemes and what the offense is doing, as well as having a lot of physical talent," Belichick said. "He's real good at everything. Some guys are better run players. Some guys are better pass players. I think Vince can play on all downs."

Whatever happens, Wilfork is determined not to be a distraction and not to go onto the field upset with the situation.

"Then my teammates can't trust me to do what I have to do," he said. "I would not put my teammates in that predicament."

Notes: Wide receiver Randy Moss was absent from the morning workout for the second straight day. ... Quarterback Tom Brady, who missed almost all of last season after hurting his knee, continues to look sharp. ... Former Philadelphia Eagles receiver Greg Lewis, obtained in a trade last March, has emerged as a fan favorite with several spectacular catches during camp.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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