Curran: Wilfork tirade helped his return

Curran: Wilfork tirade helped his return
March 27, 2014, 8:30 pm
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Would Vince Wilfork be the proud owner of a palatable three-year extension had he not stomped into the Patriots locker room, cleaned out his locker, taken down his nameplate and let it be known he wanted his release?

Hard to say.

But my guess is the tirade didn’t hurt.

It’s impossible to know how much changed from the time Wilfork was first asked to trim his 2014 cap number and Thursday when Wilfork’s signed an extension for a reported three years and $22 million.

In other words, what came first, Wilfork’s irritation or the Patriots’ acceptable offer? My guess is that it was Wilfork’s irritation.

This week, I learned the offer on the table for Wilfork was not a pay cut for 2014 but an extension. Was a pay cut the initial ask and the source of his agitation? Don’t know. But the fact Vince had an offer that would pay him his agreed-upon $7.5M if he was able to play a reasonable amount of snaps seemed eminently reasonable.

So I’m thinking this may be a unique instance in which the Patriots...hmmm..."Caved” isn’t the right word...Let’s say, relented in the face of a storm that could have done some locker room and PR damage.

This is an out-of-character decision by the Patriots, spending generously on an aging player coming off injury. The actuarial tables probably don’t suggest it.

But when Wilfork showed the Patriots he wasn’t playing around, business got done.

Now, the matter of WHEN he’ll be playing. And that’s the important thing. Because as much as people respect and enjoy Wilfork, how well he plays the position coming back from his Achilles injury is what matters.

The Patriots need to protect the investment. If that means starting Wilfork on PUP in training camp and the first portion of the regular season, they should do it. If that means managing his reps, they should do that too.

Wilfork – if his final deal is playing-time based as we reported the offer to be earlier in the week – is going to want to be on the field for two reasons. One, to make his salary. Two, he’s a proud guy, good teammate and wants to prove people wrong.

So the dance may not be done.

The Patriots could have gone a LOT harder on Wilfork. They could have dragged it out until they were sure he could or could not perform and released him.

But you could sense the tide shifting this week well. Robert Kraft’s comments about retaining Wilfork on Monday were a signal Wilfork’s request might have expired. Bill Belichick’s directive to “verify” Wilfork’s request was another signal.

Either way, it’s done. As our columnist Rich Levine tweeted, “Welcome back Vince, it’s like you never left.”

Thank God we won’t have to go through this again. Until next year with Logan Mankins.