FOXBORO -- If you ever asked Vince Wilfork about his weight during the last few years of his Patriots career, he gave the same answer: 325 pounds. That's how he was listed on the Patriots roster, and no matter what kind of prodding you did, you got the same three digits. And, no, he wouldn't be stepping on a scale for you.
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In reporting a story on the Patriots nutritional approach back in 2014, Wilfork -- who was feeling as strong as ever late in the season due to what he said were some changes to his diet -- was anticipating my disbelief before he even had the chance to proudly boast about his weight.
"Everybody always questions me because I got a big belly," Wilfork said with a smile. "I tell them all the time that I'm always gonna have a belly. I'm always gonna have a belly. That's my trademark. I'm gonna have a belly. But when you do body-fat tests and all that stuff, all my fat is in my stomach. Everywhere else, I mean, you cut my belly out you'd think I'm a linebacker or something. You know what I mean? Everyone always questions me about that, but there's no question. That's what it is. Just because I got a big belly, I'm proportioned a little bit differently than everybody else."
Proportioned differently, yes. But during Wilfork's retirement announcement on Wednesday, Bill Belichick said that Wilfork always made weight during his Patriots career, just as anybody else would be expected to.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft brought up Wilfork's "trademark" when he recalled a trip that the Wilforks and Krafts once made to Florence, Italy.
"I remember Vince saying he had camp coming up, and he wanted to eat healthy and just eat protein," Kraft said. "This place was famous for pasta and they brought many pastas and meat and desserts. Vince was a full participant in every course, not wanting to make them feel bad. I'd check when he came back here, and he was able to pass his run, but I think he might have been a few pounds overweight and had to pay a fine -- which Bill, I really should have paid because I brought him there."
Belichick made sure to double-check with Wilfork on stage, but he then made a quick correction to Kraft's story when he got his chance to speak.
"This is maybe surprising, but it’s true," Belichick started. "Vince never one time was fined for being overweight and never one time missed the conditioning test. The conditioning test honestly wasn’t even close. Vince could run. That was never an issue. There were times when he would come in for the weigh-ins and we would say, like, 'Man, is he going to make it today?' But 11 years, never fined one time for being overweight.
Belichick paused. "Now I’m not saying he was never overweight. I’m not saying that," he said. "I’m saying at weigh-in, he made every weigh-in."
Wilfork laughed before taking his turn at the podium to announce his retirement officially. "Yeah, I never missed a weigh-in," he said. "But catch me 30 minutes later and it might be a different story. That’s just being honest."
Wilfork is, after all, a man who broke the news of his own retirement with a video that featured him smoking ribs in his overalls.