FOXBORO — As Patriots president Jonathan Kraft was doing his pregame radio interview on the team’s network, a big ovation broke out in the middle.
The crowd was paying tribute to Vince Wilfork, who was being shown on the video board in his Texans uniform, getting ready for the game. It will be the second time Wilfork has faced Belichick’s Patriots but the first time Wilfork has returned to Foxboro since leaving after the 2014 season and signing a two-year, $9 million deal.
“They should [applaud] and if we weren’t all talking, I would’ve been applauding, too,” Kraft said. “I love the guy. To me, he’ll always be a Patriot. I can’t wait till we induct him into the [Patriots] Hall because I think that’s probably a foregone conclusion. He was the heart and soul of not just the defense but that locker room for a number of years. He and Bianca were both [great]. They were everything you could want in a football player and his family, on and off the field. It’s amazing to watch what he does at his age. He’s still playing really good football.”
The tribute continued during the game, as with 12:16 left in the first quarter, Wilfork took the field for the first time with the Texans defense. A highlight video was shown and at the end of the 30-second video, Wilfork waved his hand to the crowd in appreciation.
As for when he knew about Jimmy Garoppolo not dressing for the game or when he might be ready to return, Kraft played it coy.
“I don’t know exactly. I guess earlier [Thursday],” Kraft said. “It wasn’t two days ago but to be fair, I wasn’t asking the question two days ago. Earlier today, I asked the question.”
How long might Garoppolo be out?
“We’re going to let you ask Bill that question,” Kraft said. “I might or I might now but I’m going to let you ask Bill that question.”
Kraft expressed his support for Jacoby Brissett.
“I think Jacoby has been at every practice since training camp started,” Kraft said. “All of our practices are for getting a player geared up to getting on the field. He’s taking the reps. He knows the system. He’s a great athlete but he’s a great athlete that understands using his intellect and how to use it. He’s been soaking it up since Day 1. He’s not along for the ride.”
Kraft on the color rush uniforms: “We don’t want to become college football in the NFL but the league decided in partnership with Nike to go with solid colors. Seeing these out here and in person, the Pro Shop, we bought a year’s worth, and we’re two-thirds of way though. My daughter said, ‘Ugh.’ My sons texted me and they like it.”
Kraft on the quality of Thursday night games: “On a week when you’re playing on Thursday night, you don’t even practice, have a couple of walkthrough. It’s all about the classroom. If you were to sign another quarterback, you have to cut a player on your 53-man roster that you like. We like the 53 men on this team, the 46 that are dressing. It’s football and we feel this gives the best chance to win to win the football game. This is about being mentally tough. Short-week games are the way to go out and prove that.”
Kraft on the return of Rob Gronkowski: “Anytime you can see Rob on the field, you’ve got to get excited. He was ready for 8:25. It’s going to be great to see him out on the field tonight. It’s great there’s that much attention paid to it because people really care. We get it but there’s not a science to it. Ultimately, the bottom line is a guy’s going to come back when it’s right for him to come back. Tonight is the right time for Rob to come back.”