An old friend visits the Patriots at practice

Staff photo by TOM KING Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was all smiles holding court with the media after clearing concussion protocol in preparation for Sunday's Super Bowl LII

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – An old friend met with the New England Patriots on Thursday.

Former longtime Patriot nose tackle Vince Wilfork, now retired, spoke to the team at practice, chatting first – according to the league issued pool report – with linebacker James Harrison and safeties Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung.

Then soon after, Patriots coach Bill Belichick halted practice and the team gathered around in a circle at midfield to hear Wilfork’s words of wisdom, which reportedly were for the players to ignore any distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.

“He’s a great leader for us, team captain 11 years,” Belichick said. “A lot of friends here on the team, some new faces. But a guy that was very well-respected and had tremendous leadership on the team. It was good to see him.”

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski was asked to relay Wilfork’s message, but he didn’t want to get into too many specifics.

“What he said was definitely inspiring,” Gronkowski said. “Just cherish the moment. I mean, it was to our team, so I’ll just keep it to that.”


Belichick was asked Thursday about coaching with his son, Steve, who coaches the safeties.

“It’s been great, Steve’s done a great job,” Belichick said. “It’s certainly not easy (coaching). … He’s certainly helped me, given me good perspective on the things he sees. He’s certainly a lot closer in age to the players than I am. He might see things that I need to address that I miss.”


The Eagles, according to the pool report, worked on situations in practice: short yardage, goal line and third down. And Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was please with what he saw from quarterback Nick Foles.

“Nick was really sharp again,” he said. “Real sharp. He was accurate with his passes, smart in the run game.”

Pederson was even impressed with backup QB Nate Sudfeld. “I know it’s service team stuff, but he makes our defense work,” Pederson said.


Also fully returning to practice, having cleared concussion protocol, was Patriot rooke defensive lineman Deitrich Wise. No Patriots who were limited earlier in the week, including defensive back Malcolm Butler (illness), Gronkowski and defensive back Brandon King (knee) practiced fully…

Only one Eagle, defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan, did not participate in practice, due to an illness. The reported plan is to keep him as hydrated as possible and he’s expected to play on Sunday…

Belichick issued familiar words on Tom Brady: “There’s no quarterback I’d rather have play for my team than Tom Brady. I’m glad I have him.”

The teams will both practice on Friday, but their media availability for the week is done until immediately after Sunday night’s game.