FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Veteran New England Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork knows he has a few more hurdles to clear before he's all the way back from a ruptured Achilles sustained last Sept. 29, but Thursday's first training camp practice marked another step in the right direction.
Wilfork, who appears to have shed weight, was a full participant for the complete non-pads practice.
"If I had limitations, I wouldn't be practicing. Right now, I'm on the field and I'm healthy," Wilfork said after the two-hour session. "I'm pretty sure there's going to still be some stuff that I may need to do, so 'so far, so good.' I'm not looking back. I'm looking forward."
It's a credit to Wilfork that he's made it to this point. As he pointed out in June, the stats aren't favorable for 325-pound defensive tackles coming off such a serious injury, but the rock in the middle of the Patriots' defense never doubted himself. The next step will be absorbing contact for the first time, as the team's first full-pads practice is scheduled for Saturday.
A few other soundbites from Wilfork:
On if the injury gives him a greater appreciation for the game: "I always appreciate the game, but being out last year, it just made me dwell on the things a little bit more and appreciate them a lot, lot more. You think about things a little differently now going through what I've been through -- my first time being injured. It's one of those things, I had a [bump] in the road and what am I going to do about it? With the teammates I have, with my coaches, with my family -- that's a big supporter of mine, my family -- just having somebody that you can talk to every day, come and work out every day and have guys surrounding you and just being able to comfort you when times get tough. Just having someone to talk to, I think this team does a real good job of that. Everybody just sending you a text or a phone call or just coming to your house to see how you're doing -- it went a long ways for me, and I really appreciate it from everybody."
On what he needs to prove: "I just have to prove I can come out and give my team what they need. Me as a person, I've never been a selfish player; I was a team player. If I wanted to be selfish, I could have been a shot putter. I've done that. I was a state champion shot putter, but it wasn't my thing. My thing was to be with teammates, a good group of guys, and we're all working toward one goal and that's to be able to win and push one another. That's why I chose football. For me to prove anything, no; I have to prove to my teammates they can trust me when the [game] is on the line. They have to do the same thing with me. It starts now. Camp is, that's the platform for everything. If you can [become] a better football team in camp, you'll be pretty decent."
On players competing hard in practice: "I think that's one of the biggest things that's going to help us as a team is when we come out and you see Tom Brady competing and getting pissed off that he threw an incomplete pass and you see Jerod Mayo or Darrelle Revis mad because somebody caught a pass; that's competition. The young guys look at that and say, 'You know what? For me to be successful in this league, I have to practice like that.' We have a bunch of guys that lead by example because they don't say much, they just go out and do it."