Vince Wilfork has played 13 years in the NFL.

He has devoted his life to a game he loves so any thought of retirement isn’t easy.

“At this point in my career, it’s winding down, I’ve been thinking about it,” Wilfork said on Tuesday. “I just think every year once you get to this time in your career, for me that I always think about what I want to do.”

While a lot of players might feel this way, for Wilfork, this is a first.

“This is one of the one’s that I’m really sitting back when the season is over, I’m really going to take a look at what I want to do if I want to continue or not,” Wilfork said. “It’s the first time in my career that I actually have put any thought into it. I’ll make that decision whenever the decision is made. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about it.”

The big man at nose tackle has been a fixture in the NFL ever since his days with the New England Patriots. After 11 season and 2 Super Bowl victories, he came to Houston where he has excelled in a role that his current coach thinks is one of the toughest in the league.

In fact, Bill O’Brien was surprised to hear the news that his veteran defensive lineman is thinking about hanging them up.

“Wow. He hasn’t spoken to me about that,” O’Brien said. “Look, you just kind of caught me off guard there. Vince has been a guy that I’ve had tremendous respect for from the time I met him in New England.”

And his praise didn’t stop there.

“To play that position for that many years, if he does decide to go that route, to play nose tackle in this game at such a high level for that many years. To me, it’s incredible,” O’Brien said. “Those positions, there is physical and violent contact on every play. It’s not like playing farther away from the ball. I mean, you’re right over the ball. To be in that position, get double teamed quite a bit, and to have the productive career that he’s had, it’s a testament to him, it’s a testament to his toughness.”

The revelation of his retirement thoughts came as the Texans prepare for a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. This is where the veteran thrives. These are the moments which are hard to walk away from, but sometimes the time comes when a tough decision has to be made.

“One thing that I know is that I love this game,” Wilfork said. “That’s one of the hardest pills to swallow when you leave something that you love, and I still love it. My body feels good, but it’s just one of those things for me.”

As for any future plans, Wilfork has some things he’d really like to explore.

“I love horses, I love to fish, I love to have my own time,” Wilfork said. “I don’t like to be on a schedule. In football, you’re on a schedule. It was a good thing for my career because it teaches you discipline, it teaches you how to value time and stuff like that. I just think, I’ll sit back and give some time after this season, and see if I really want to do it.”