FOXBORO -- Vince Wilfork didn't need reminding when he took to the podium Wednesday of AFC Championship week. He knew he was fortunate to have done the exact same thing last year.
This season marks Wilfork's ninth in the league, ninth with the Patriots. Sunday's conference title game will be his fifth with New England.
He understood the tradition of winning better than anyone else in the room. It is, after all, The Patriot Way.
Wilfork discussed what it all means to him at this stage in his career.
"I learned a long time ago with Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour . . . I learned from some of the best that played around here," Wilfork said. "And the first thing that comes to your mind is you can't be selfish. It's not about you, it's about team, and if you buy into it, you'll be very successful.
"That's the one thing, I think, that this organization has had for a long time -- guys that come in and they're not selfish. They put the team first because it is a team sport, it's definitely a team sport. You need everybody working on the same page. If you have one or two guys that's not, you can be in big trouble.
"That's The Patriot Way -- we put team first. We win as a team and we lose as a team. I've won a lot of games in my career here and I wouldn't trade it for nothing."
Another defensive captain, linebacker Jerod Mayo, was also asked to reflect. He explained that the attitude of excellence in New England goes beyond the athletes. Full commitment is expected on all levels of the organization, from sunup to sundown.
"The Patriot Way, for me, I think starts at the top with the Kraft family," Mayo said. "That's just not only being a good football player, but being a good person and falling in line.
"We always talk about. If you want to be a good football team, you'll never get stuck in rush hour traffic. You want to be the first one here and the last guy to leave. I think guys really buy into that. Guys that come from other teams, I think they follow the lead of the bulk of the team and it's worked well here."