Wilfork now in top leadership spot

FOXBOROUGH – Nose tackle Vince Wilfork was at Gillette Stadium today and caught up with Patriots Football Weekly, the team’s official Web site. Listening to the audio of his interview, and seeing pictures of Wilfork signing a contract with owner Robert Kraft, the following thought came to mind:

The opportunity is now there to take his leadership to a Tedy Bruschi-type level.

Wilfork has already been a leader for the Patriots, simply by the way he approaches his job. He’s a pro’s pro.

Now, when I think about the lucrative five-year contract he just signed, and the mostly younger defensive personnel around him, it looks like there is an opportunity to expand his leadership duties.

Leadership comes in many forms and I’d describe Wilfork’s mostly as leadership-by-example. But there are certain times when leaders are called upon in the locker room to stand up and make a statement, and this is where I think Wilfork is now positioned to be the guy.

One such time from 2009 was after the Patriots’ loss in Indianapolis, when Bill Belichick’s fourth-and-two decision was framed by some as a lack of confidence in the defense. One of the strongest media voices opining on the decision was former Patriot Tedy Bruschi.

It is my opinion that what the Patriots needed that week, as a unit, was one strong defensive voice to step forward and put an end to the media firestorm. Second-year linebacker Jerod Mayo tried, noting that Bruschi wasn’t in the locker room, but it seemed to me like a spot in which Mayo wasn’t entirely comfortable.

This is one reason why I think the Wilfork contract has added importance to the Patriots, and you could almost already hear Wilfork transitioning toward more of that type of leadership role today. Toward the end of the Patriots Football Weekly interview, he touted what it means to be a Patriot.

“From Day 1, my main goal was to start and finish my career here,” he said. “I’ve met good people in my time here, some great fans. You have a great chance of winning every year. Who wouldn’t want to play in front of a sold-out crowd every Sunday at home? Who wouldn’t want to be up under a Bill Belichick? Who wouldn’t want to be up under the teammates I have, the friends I’ve made here? It’s a lot easier.”