Wilfork was one of the most prominent ex-Hurricanes named by booster/convicted Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro in an investigation by Yahoo! Sports that detailed gifts of cash, prostitutes, access to multimillion-dollar homes and a yacht, nightclub jaunts, jewelry and even bounties for injuring opposing players. The most damaging allegation against Wilfork is that he received $50,000 in his junior season to sign with a sports agency, Axcess Sports & Entertainment. Wilfork did eventually sign with that agency after being drafted in the first round by New England. Shapiro also alleged that he gave Wilfork a Cadillac Escalade after he declared for the draft.
Last week, Wilfork issued a statement via his Twitter account that read “I am aware of the report that has claims that involve me while at the U. While the NCAA and the U conduct their investigations [my wife] and I believe that it is not appropriate for us to comment. Thanks for your continued support and confidence in me.”
Asked Monday how the last 10 days have unfolded for him and his family, Wilfork said “It’s tough. I released a statement and that’s where I’m at with it. I want to move forward. I’m done with that situation and just focused on my football career. One thing I don’t want to do is be a distraction to this team, to this organization. … I’ll move forward. It feels real good to be around a great group of guys.”
There has been no word from federal authorities on whether Wilfork or other ex-players may be liable to return money they may have received from Shapiro to help assist the victims of the $930-million Ponzi scheme. Shapiro is serving a 20-year federal sentence in the case.
Into the Lions’ den
Like the rest of his Patriot teammates, Wilfork says the team’s focus is now only on getting ready for a trip to Detroit for their third preseason game this Saturday. The Pats whipped the Lions last Thanksgiving, 45-24, but this Lions team appears stronger, in large part due to the addition of quarterback Matthew Stafford. Shaun Hill quarterbacked the Lions last November.
“They’re making some forward progress with draft picks,” Wilfork said. “Playing them last year on Thanksgiving, they gave us a pretty good fight. It’s going to show a lot.”
Wilfork said that with the loss of off-season workouts and limited practice session in training camp, attention to detail needs to become a focus for the Patriots.
“Technique is always an issue at this point, especially coming in this late and missing the off-season program and mini-camps. Everybody is behind the ball,” he said. “Bill (Belichick) always does a good job of challenging us. It’s not going to stop. Every week he’s going to have something different for us so we have to be prepared for it.
The healing game
With the Pats prepared to head to Detroit for what is always perceived as the most important dress rehearsal exhibition game, getting injured players back on the practice field is paramount.
Several players returned Monday with hopes of playing this week. Receivers Julian Edelman, Taylor Price and Brandon Tate, defensive lineman Myron Pryor, safety James Sanders and rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling all are back at practice. Dowling, the team’s first pick in the second round (33rd overall) out of Virginia, has participated in just one practice before being sidelined with a hamstring injury.
Three players were spotted in just workout clothes at practice. They included Gary Guyton, a linebacker who played last Thursday in Tampa, and running back Danny Woodhead, who was hit hard covering a punt in Tampa.
Among the players not spotted at practice were running back Stevan Ridley, corner Leigh Bodden, running back Shane Vereen, linebacker Dane Fletcher, linebacker Brandon Spikes, linemen Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright. Running back Kevin Faulk and defensive linemen Brandon Deaderick and Ron Brace remain on the physically unable to perform list.
Speaking on his radio show on WEEI, Belichick was asked if Haynesworth will return to practice Tuesday.
“If he’s ready, yes,” said Belichick. “We’ll go out there (Tuesday) and if he’s ready to practice, he’ll practice. If not, we’ll try Wednesday.”
The third preseason game in 2010 did not go well for the Pats. St. Louis, led by rookie QB Sam Bradford, won in Foxboro, 36-35.
Mills weighs in
Garrett Mills spoke with the media for the first time since signing as a free agent on Saturday. Mills was originally drafted by the Pats in 2006 but spent the entire season on injured reserve. The Pats lost him in the ’07 preseason when he was claimed by the Minnesota Vikings. He spent three years there and played for Philadelphia in 2010.
An undersized tight end (6-foot-1, 235 pounds), Mills faces heavy competition for a roster spot with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez targeted for most of the action. Still, he feels he has something to offer.
“I feel like I’m a more experienced and talented player after spending my rookie year with Tom (Brady), with Brett (Farve) in Minnesota and last year with (Michael) Vick,” Mills said.
As for the atmosphere in Foxboro, Mills says he respects the team approach. “I think in this locker room star-power is kind of defused a bit. I think that’s a good thing.”