Wilfork could be next to go

Wilfork could be next to go
March 7, 2014, 11:15 am
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Which Boston athlete is the biggest Boston sports fan?

That’s my question for you on this Friday afternoon.

And don’t say Rich Hill because that’s not fair; he grew up in Milton. And don’t say Phil Pressey because he spent a chunk of his childhood in Waltham. And for that matter, don’t say Gerald Wallace, because his random obsession with the Patriots existed long before his even more random stint with the Celtics. Instead, I’m talking about guys who were converted. Players who moved to Boston because they were drafted (or traded) here, and then fell in love with the teams.

For all that talk, the answer’s pretty obvious. It’s Vince Wilfork. Over his more than a decade in town, Wilfork’s become a huge Celtics fan. He’s been to more games than the rest of the city’s athletes combined. And he doesn’t just show up to be seen looking cool in a courtside seat. He cares. Look at the way he talked about the Celtics during the 2012 Eastern Conference Finals. (This was right after Boston suffered a crushing overtime defeat in Game 2.)

“Absolutely, I watched,” he told reporters. “I couldn’t believe we blew a 15-point lead. That’s heartbreaking, but they’re fighting hard. They’re fighting really hard. I still have faith and hopefully we can pull two away at home and get it back to even. I’m a big fan and I’m pulling for them."

We? Damn straight he said “we.”

Anyway, in recent days, Vince has stolen some of the spotlight from the C’s. I’m sure Rondo appreciates that, but unfortunately Wilfork (much like the Celtics) doesn’t find himself in a great place. Tom E. Curran went much deeper into Vince’s predicament yesterday, and you should definitely check it out, but in the meantime, here’s a quick breakdown.

1. Wilfork is a 32-year-old nose tackle coming off Achilles surgery.

2. Next season, he’s owed $7.5M in salary and represents an $11.6M cap hit.

3. The Patriots don’t want to pay $7.5M for a 32-year-old nose tackle coming off Achilles surgery.

The two sides will reportedly have this conversation before free agency begins on March 11, and basically, there are now three ways for this thing to go:

1. They talk, and nothing happens. The Patriots pay that man his money.

2. They talk, and eventually see eye-to-eye. They restructure and everyone is happy.

3. They talk, and Vince won’t budge. They can’t find common ground and the Patriots release him.

For what it’s worth, my money’s on No 2. I don’t think Wilfork will get his full salary because the Patriots don’t want to pay it, and Belichick’s never one to be talked out of that mindset. I don’t think Wilfork will be released because I believe that he’s realistic, and deep down, understands where the Pats are coming from. He’s still an insane competitor. He’s still invested in this team. Have you ever seen an injured player more involved than Wilfork was last year? He was basically a full-time coach.

So, assuming that the Patriots are able to convince him that they’ll actually spend the money saved from re-working his deal, I think Vince will do it. You know he wants to finish his career here, and in a perfect world, you know the Pats would love to see him do it, too. Just in general, it’s hard to envision Vince Wilfork taking the field in any other uniform.

Then again, tonight at the Garden, we’ll be reminded once again that anything is possible —

Paul Pierce and the Nets are back in town.

See you there, Vince?

Follow me on Twitter: @rich_levine