Updated: March 24, 2014, 1:59 PM ET
Mike Reiss | ESPNBoston.com
ORLANDO, Fla. — New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft compared Vince Wilfork, who has requested to be released, to some of the franchise’s greats in expressing his hope that the standout defensive tackle will remain with the team.
“Going back over the last 20 years, we’ve had some pretty special people come through and [Vince] is one of my personal favorites,” Kraft said Monday at the NFL’s annual meeting at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, the owners’ first remarks since Wilfork’s request. “I’m thinking of Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown, they made their careers with us. I surely hope Vince will be with us next year.
“In modern-day athletics, in pro sports, it’s a business as well as commitment to one another. We have to work through [this] and I’m still not giving up hope that he’ll be part of our team next year.”
Wilfork, who has been with the club since being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, is scheduled to earn $7.5 million in the final year of his contract and count $11.6 million against the salary cap. The 32-year-old team captain tore his Achilles in the team’s fourth game last season and missed the remainder of the year.
The Patriots have approached him about adjusting the contract, but to this point the sides haven’t been able to find a middle ground.
While Kraft and Wilfork have shared a close relationship, Kraft explained it was a situation where there is a separation between strong personal feelings and the business side of the game.
“For him, he’s making some individual decisions. For us, we have to put a team together of over 50 people. We have a salary cap,” he said. “In the end, it’s about both parties feeling it’s a good transaction and it’s a win-win. I think that’s what we’re both shooting for.
“We’ve been very close and I’ll let Vince speak to whatever he feels is appropriate. We’re probably results-oriented and life is about execution so either we get it done or we don’t. I very much hope we get it done, and I believe he very much would like to do it as well. We’ve been so lucky to have him. So we’ll see what happens.”
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