Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Kraft lauds Nance, expresses Wilfork optimism


Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft made an appearance at Wednesday's minicamp session to discuss fullback Jim Nance's induction into the team's Hall of Fame.

Nance was the AFL's most valuable player in 1966. He's second to Sam "Bam" Cunningham on the Patriots' all-time rushing yardage list.

"He was an attraction," Kraft said of Nance. "He brought fans to the games and that was very important in building a loyal fan base.

"Four decades later, we still have many season ticket holders who became fans of the Patriots in the 1960s because of players like Jim Nance. The fact that he still holds some prominent rushing records 38 years after his playing career speaks volumes."

Then conversation quickly turned to the topic of the day: Nose tackle Vince Wilfork's contract situation.

Wilfork skipped all of New England's organized team activities, which were voluntary, because he's entering the final year of the six-year deal he signed as a rookie in 2004 and wants an extension.

His base salary will be $2.2 million, but he's worth far more because he's among the best at such a critical position in the Patriots' 3-4 defense.

"Every year we have these business issues that have to get worked out, and one way or another they'll get worked out, and hopefully Vince will be here for the long-term," Kraft said.

"Vince and I have a great relationship. We actually chatted at the [Patriots Charitable Foundation] golf tournament on Monday. We both understand that this is not personal in any way. This is just each side doing their business and one way or another I'm sure things will get resolved."

That Wilfork showed up Wednesday for the start of mandatory minicamp was an encouraging sign for Kraft.

But the influential owner pointed out the difficulties in perennially maintaining a talented roster while remaining under the salary cap.

"It's hard on both sides because, look, we're blessed with a lot of good players on this team," Kraft said. "Unfortunately, the nature of the business if you want to win every year and to put yourself in position to be able to try and win every year, you need to make decisions and prioritize.

"There's a limited amount of money we can spend. So we're always trying to balance that and keep a team together and put ourselves in the best position to win."