New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft compared Vince Wilfork, who has requested to be released, to some of the franchise's greats in expressing his hope that the standout defensive tackle will remain with the team.

"Going back over the last 20 years, we've had some pretty special people come through, and [Vince] is one of my personal favorites," Kraft said Monday at the NFL's owners meetings at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, his first public remarks since Wilfork's request. "I'm thinking of Tedy Bruschi and Matt Light and Kevin Faulk and Troy Brown, they made their careers with us. I surely hope Vince will be with us next year.

"In modern-day athletics, in pro sports, it's a business as well as commitment to one another. We have to work through [this], and I'm still not giving up hope that he'll be part of our team next year."

Wilfork, who has been with the Patriots since being selected in the first round of the 2004 draft, is scheduled to earn $7.5 million in the final year of his contract and count $11.6 million against the salary cap. The 32-year-old team captain tore his Achilles in the team's fourth game last season and missed the remainder of the year.

The Patriots have approached him about adjusting his contract, but to this point the sides haven't been able to find middle ground.

Although the owner says he and Wilfork share a close relationship, Kraft explained that there's a separation between strong personal feelings and the business side of the game.