FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork does a good job stopping the opponent and moving on to the next play. He’s taking the same approach toward questions about a booster’s claim he accepted improper benefits while in college at Miami.
Wilfork said Monday he doesn’t want to be a distraction to his current team and doesn’t want to talk about the claim.
The week since Yahoo! Sports reported that Nevin Shapiro paid Wilfork $50,000 has been “tough” he said at his locker before New England practiced on Monday, “but, you know what, I released a statement a couple of days ago, whatever it was, and that’s where I’m at with it.
“I’ve moved forward. I’m done with that situation and I’m just focused on my football career.”
Wilfork echoed that later Monday during an appearance on WEEI radio.
“I commented about it, and I’m done with that,” he said on the show. “That’s all I’m going to say about it. I’ve moved forward from that day.”
Wilfork’s only remarks on the issue before Monday came on Twitter last week when he said it was not appropriate for him to comment while the NCAA and Miami conducted their investigations.
Shapiro, who is serving a 20-year prison sentence for masterminding a $930 million Ponzi scheme, told Yahoo! Sports he provided impermissible benefits to 72 of the university’s football players and other athletes between 2002 and 2010. In the story posted last Tuesday, Shapiro said he gave money, cars, yacht trips, jewelry, televisions and other gifts to several players, including Wilfork, Jon Beason, Antrel Rolle, Devin Hester, Willis McGahee and the late Sean Taylor.
The story said Shapiro gave the $50,000 to recruit Wilfork to sign with a sports agency that he said he co-owned for much of the time he was involved with the university.
Wilfork entered the locker room on Monday with about 4 minutes left in the 45-minute period in which it was open to the media. He was asked five questions with only the second referring to the story.
“One thing I don’t want to do is be a distraction to this team, to this organization,” he said of the Patriots. “I won’t be that. So my teammates stuck behind me 100 percent, my family, the organization.”
The Patriots play their third exhibition game Saturday night, visiting the Detroit Lions.
“I’ve moved forward definitely toward the Detroit Lions now,” said Wilfork, a first-round draft pick in 2004 who made his third Pro Bowl last season. “And it feels good to be around a great group of guys. It feels real good.”
Wilfork started last Thursday night’s 31-14 win at Tampa Bay two days after the Yahoo! Sports report.
The play of the defense “probably looked good, but some things we screwed up,” he said. “Technique is always an issue at this point, especially coming in now this late” because of the lockout.
New players must adapt to the Patriots’ complex defensive system — even newly acquired veterans Shaun Ellis, Andre Carter, Albert Haynesworth and Mark Anderson, all linemen.
And holdovers such as Wilfork must adjust to new wrinkles.
“We’re actually doing a couple of things that we have to learn,” he said, “so it’s good to have good communication out there on the field.”
Last season the Patriots’ defense was the worst in the league in stopping third-down conversions. They’ve added proven pass rushers and, in their two exhibition games have used more of an attacking style than they did last year.
“One thing we say around here all the time is, ‘stop the run,’ “ Wilfork said. “So if we can continue to do a good job on first and second down, (on) third down we can pin our ears back and actually get after the quarterback a little bit.
“With the people we have here, I think we have a good chance.”