Vince Wilfork says starting a new season'never gets old'

FOXBORO — Vince Wilfork needn't look at the calendar on the wall to know what time of year it is.

"I've been doing it for a while so I know when it's time to go and it's not time to go," the Patriots' veteran defensive lineman said Wednesday. "And it's time to go."

Yes, the time to go to Miami for the start of another NFL regular season nears.

At 32 — he'll turn 33 in November — Wilfork may be aging, but he insists "it never gets old."

"I'm always excited about defense so it's no different," he said. "I'm excited about the start of the season. The start is always the beginning of everything and that's where we're at right now.

"(There's) a bunch of new guys, but the one thing that stayed the same is we have a bunch of guys that love the game. They always have a chip on their shoulder. They want to get better. And that's the one thing that's stayed the same around here, so hopefully that can put us where we need to be."

Limited to four games last season by a torn Achilles' tendon suffered on the opening series of the Patriots' 30-23 win at Atlanta and on the heels of an offseason in which his contract situation also threatened his future with the team, Wilfork is right back where one of his fellow captains says he needs to be.

"You can't really say enough about Vince and his leadership, not only on the football field but in the locker room," special teamer Matthew Slater said. "The type of man that he is off the field, his presence is so strong in this locker room. He's part of the heartbeat here, so (I'm) just excited that he's back and he's healthy and he's going to do whatever it takes to help this football team win."

The Patriots' top pick (21st overall) in the 2004 draft, Wilfork's past performances were enough to earn him five Pro Bowl berths, including four in a row from 2009-2012.

Over the course of his 10 seasons in New England, the 6-foot-2, 325-pounder has amassed 679 tackles in 142 games (132 starts).

"Vince is such a huge part of who we are," said Slater. "He's part of our personality, our character on that football field and in the locker room.

"He's a pillar for us on the field, but in the community as well. You see the community work he does. (He's) a man of character. You can't say enough good things about Vince."

The drudgery of organized team activities, offseason mini-camps and training camp is behind him now, but, given what he went through to get here, Wilfork says even that time passed quickly for him.

"Time flew," he said Wednesday. "I know we were sitting there in OTAs and mini-camp and training camp and all of a sudden we're sitting here preparing for the first game of the season. That's an exciting time for everyone, not just myself, but everyone. Being able to start on the road, it's going to be tough. Starting in the division on the road is always tough."

Season openers have treated Wilfork well over the years.

Amazingly, he's never suffered a season-opening loss, the Patriots' run of 10 straight season-opening wins dating back to Sept. 9, 2004, his NFL debut, when he registered seven stops at nose tackle and recovered a fumble forced by defensive back Eugene Wilson in the fourth quarter of a 27-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts at Gillette Stadium.

Now, the start of his 11th regular season nears.

"The good lord willing," said Slater, "he'll still be the same, old Vince."

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