Pro Bowl's nice, but Wilfork keeping eye on prize

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Pro Bowl's nice, but Wilfork keeping eye on prize

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- When Vince Wilfork met the media on Wednesday, he did so as a member of the 2011 Pro Bowl team. He immediately addressed the significance of his third career selection.

"To be nominated as one of the best in the National Football League, I'm very honored,'' Wilfork said. "I'm excited about it. I'm excited about my teammates who made it."

Five of Wilfork's teammates were also named to the roster. But the nose tackle didn't feel like the commendations for hard work should be limited to those invited to Hawaii.

"I'm proud of everyone,'' he said. "There're a bunch of guys in here that easily could have been a Pro Bowler, but there're only so many you can pick. But I'm definitely proud of the guys who made it: Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty and Brandon Meriweather, and Tom Brady and Logan Mankins on offense.

"I think I speak for everyone when I say that we're very proud of this team, not just those individuals who have been named Pro Bowlers. As a team, we're very, very honored to be in the position to do some good things."

Since the selections were just made Tuesday night, Wilfork's opening comments were predictable. His emphasis, however, was elsewhere.

The Patriots' focus-only-on-what's-in-front-of-you mantra was never more evident than in Wilfork's comments Wednesday. New England has a matchup with Miami to get through this week and, in Wilfork's mind, the importance of an AFC East showdown -- even one as meaningless as Sunday's between the Patriots, who've clinched everything there is to clinch heading into the playoffs, and the Dolphins, who've been eliminated from the postseason picture -- supersedes all awards and playoff talk.

"We take it one game at a time," Wilfork said. "From personal goals to individual to team goals, I think that's the best way to do it. Our goal is to just keep getting better as a team and put together a good football effort against the Miami Dolphins this week and leave this one with a 'W.'

"I know they want to end their season with a win and we want to win, so it doesnt get any better than this. We don't look at any records. It's all about one team and the Miami Dolphins playing the New England Patriots. Thats what it is going to boil down to."

Fans and analysts alike are wondering how much starters, like Wilfork, will play on Sunday. The Patriots already know they're going to the playoffs. Is this going to be a garbage game?

The defensive captain scoffed at the idea.

"I want to play football,'' he stated. "Especially this time of year, I think the more games you play . . . the more consistent you can be. That's where I stand. I want to play every game I can, crunch time. I think anybody who loves the game would want to be playing right now and I'm one of those guys. There are a bunch of guys in this locker room that want to play and want to win. "

He was unwavering in his stance. What about 2009's season-ending injury to Wes Welker in New England's Week 17 game? It's ancient history and Wilfork isn't even subscribing to the text.

"I don't think twice about going in the last game of preseason or the middle-of-the-season game. I couldn't care less when I play. When I play, I play. If it's meant for somebody to get injured, you get injured. You could easily get injured off the field. So that's something I don't worry about."

So for now, the Pro Bowl and the playoffs are merely distractions from the game plan. Is Vince Wilfork honored and excited? Absolutely. But the only thing on the big man's mind this week is beating Miami.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

How does Derek Carr's new deal impact Jimmy Garoppolo?

Ever since Derek Carr signed a five-year, $125 million extension with the Raiders to give him the highest average annual contract value in league history, some version of the same question has been posed over and over again. 

What does this mean for other quarterbacks looking for new deals? 

Despite the fact that Carr's average annual value surpasses the previous high set by Andrew Luck ($24.6 million), and despite the fact that Carr's contract provides him the security that alluded him while he was on his rookie contract, his recent haul may not mean much for the likes of Matthew Stafford, Kirk Cousins and other top-end quarterbacks.

They were already expecting monster paydays down the road that would hit (or eclipse) the $25 million range, and Carr's record-setting contract may not even serve as a suitable baseline for them, as ESPN's Dan Graziano lays out.

So if Carr's contract did little more for upper-echelon quarterbacks than confirm for them where the market was already headed, then does it mean anything for someone like Jimmy Garoppolo? 

Carr and Garoppolo were both second-round picks in 2014, but from that point, they've obviously taken very different roads as pros. Carr started 47 consecutive games in his first three years and by last season he had established himself as one of the most valuable players in the league. Garoppolo, by comparison, has started two games. 

Both players still hold loads of promise, but unless Garoppolo sees substantial playing time in 2017 and then hits the open market, he won't approach Carr's deal when his rookie contract is up.  

ESPN's Mike Reiss projected that a fair deal for Garoppolo on the open market might fall between the $19 million that was guaranteed to Chicago's Mike Glennon and Carr's contract, which includes $40 million fully guaranteed and $70 million in total guarantees, per NFL Media.

Perhaps something in the range of what Brock Osweiler received from the Texans after Osweiler started seven games for the Broncos in 2015 would be considered fair: four years, with $37 million guaranteed. Because Osweiler (before his deal or since) never seemed as polished as Garoppolo was in his two games as a starter in 2016, and because the salary cap continues to soar, the argument could be made that Garoppolo deserves something even richer. 

Though Garoppolo is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency following the 2017 season, there is a chance he doesn't get there quite that quickly. The Patriots could try to come to some kind of agreement with their backup quarterback on an extension that would keep him in New England, or they could place the franchise tag on him following the season. 

Either way, Garoppolo will get paid. But until he sees more time on the field, a deal that would pay him in the same range as his draft classmate will probably be out of reach.

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Patriots release camp dates; open practices begin July 27

Football is coming.

The Patriots announced on Thursday that veterans will report to training camp on Wednesday, July 26 and that the first public practice will take place the following day.

Each of the team's first four practices -- from July 27-30 -- are scheduled to take place on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium "in the nine o'clock hour," according to the Patriots. Updates to the training camp schedule, including more specific start times for practices, can be found at patriots.com/trainingcamp.

The Patriots Hall of Fame will hold its induction ceremony for former corner Raymond Clayborn on Saturday, July 29 around midday following that morning's training camp practice. Held on the plaza outside the Hall at Patriot Place, the ceremony will be free and open to the public.

The Patriots will host the Jaguars for two days of joint practices open to the public on Monday, Aug. 7 and Tuesday, Aug. 8. The preseason opener for both clubs will take place at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 10.