FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork, the longest-tenured defensive player on the team and a captain during the 2012 season, addressed a contingent of media members on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium on Thursday, echoing the message sent by head coach Bill Belichick the day before.
"First and foremost, it's a sad situation for the victim's family," Wilfork said, alluding to the death of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd; former Patriots TE Aaron Hernandez has been charged with murdering Lloyd. "You're not dealing with just football right now. You're dealing with a human being, you're dealing with life, so it's just sad. You're just disappointed, but at the same time we get a chance to come do something that we love to do and play football.
"One thing we're going to have to do is just try to keep everything separate, and when we step on the field just control what we can control, and that's football, getting better each day," he continued.
"That's my main focus is to try to do that. It's started and it's here."
While Wilfork would not delve into many particulars about the ongoing investigation, he said that upon hearing a teammate was connected with an alleged murder, he was both sad and disappointed.
"Disappointing. It was disappointment, it was sad," he said. "There's really nothing much you can say, just sad and disappointment was the biggest thing."
The difficult series of events relating to the investigation has put things in a new context, Wilfork added.
"You put everything into perspective," he noted. "You have to enjoy every moment that you have in life. And football is an outlet for us.
“When we come here, we expect to play football, we get away from everything, and it's started. It's training camp here, but to come to training camp on a note like this is tough -- but at the same time, we have to continue to do our job. We're not going to disrespect anything that's going on with the families, but we do have to play football, and our job is to play football. We'll try to do that the best way we can."
He said getting back to football starts with sticking together as a team.
"Like I said, when we walk through this door, we have a sign that says, 'Put the team first and do your job,' and you have to read it every time you come in,” Wilfork said. “I'm pretty sure I will, even though it's been there for a long time and I do it every year, I think we're all going to do it. Because that's what we're going to have to do. There's going to be a lot of things said and done throughout the course of this year, but we're going to have be able to move forward; we're going to have to be able to come here and ignore the noise and just work as hard we could in order to win ballgames."
He admitted that ignoring the noise and avoiding the situation is going to be a test for him and his teammates.
"Do your job, put the team first," Wilfork said. "It's going to be tested, it's definitely going to be tested. Because like I said, this is real life. You're dealing with a real-life situation, so it's easy to get caught up in the media or speculations, but we're not here for that. Like I said, I feel bad for the victim's family, but we have to move forward as a football team. That's sad to say, but that's reality."