Bears expected to sign Rod WilsonContinue reading.
Big game for Bears safety Adrian Wilson? ‘I don’t feel I have anything to prove’
The intrigue of the first preseason game often is dubious — it’s still only the first preseason game — but it’s as real as it gets for Adrian Wilson. Everybody wants to see if he can still move, react and play like the Pro Bowl safety he used to be. He’s got a lot to prove.
“It’s my 14th year in this — I hate having to answer questions about a preseason game,” Wilson said defiantly. “I just don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody. I’ve got six Pro Bowls, three first-team All-Pros — why do I have to prove anything to anybody?”
Well, maybe because he’s 34, hasn’t played since 2012 with the Cardinals, spent last season with the Patriots on injured-reserved, is coming off surgery on his Achilles and hasn’t made the Pro Bowl since 2011 or been All-Pro since 2009. Bill Belichick, an NFL talent evaluator of some repute, doesn’t make a habit of dropping 30-and-over players who still have it.
“Like I said, I don’t feel I have anything to prove to anybody,” Wilson said. “I’m just here to play football. I don’t really like doing the media thing, because I’m an up-front guy kind of guy. It’s the preseason, the first game.”
The reality is that Wilson has a lot to prove. At 6-3, 230, he physically looks like a safety the Bears have never had before. He has 25 1/2 sacks in his career — only Rodney Harrison (30 1/2) and Brian Dawkins (26) have recorded more since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. With 27 interceptions, he’s one of only six players in the 25/25 club — 25 sacks, 25 interceptions. A noted big hitter, he’s an intimidating presence on the field.
But at 34, there are a lot of questions. Wilson lost his starting strong safety job in New England in training camp last year before he was put on IR. Was it because of the injury — which has been described as Haglund’s deformity, an enlarged bone in the back of the heel that causes bursitis? In practice in Bourbonnais, Wilson has shown that he’s getting comfortable with the Bears’ defensive system, their keys and techniques. But he still has to show he can apply them while reacting and playing at game speed. And there’s only one way to find out.
“The preseason, that’s the best way,” Bears secondary coach Jon Hoke said. “We’ll see where he’s at.”
In a wide-open safety competition where the Bears clearly don’t really know what they have yet, Wilson is the biggest wild-card. If he’s still got it, the strong safety position is filled. And his competition can feel his immense presence.
“Oh, yeah. You can definitely tell he’s coming for sure,” safety Ryan Mundy said. “He’s starting to show flashes. He has a knack for being around the ball. He’s in the 25/25 club (27 interceptions, 25 sacks) — there’s only like six people in NFL history in that club. So he definitely has a knack for play-making and you can see that on tape. So I think once he gets going, he’s definitely going to be out there.”
While Wilson definitely marches to the beat of his own drummer, Bears coaches and teammates have been impressed by his work ethic and professionalism. He’s been a good teammate.
“Adrian has done a great job of coming in here and being himself,” Mundy said. “He has Pro Bowls. He’s a long-time veteran. All-Pro and all that stuff. But he’s done a great job of just coming in here and being Adrian and just slowly working his way in. He had to learn the defense. He had to learn new teammates. But he’s done an outstanding job. And he’s been nothing but helpful for not only myself, but for everyone else in the [safeties] room.”
The preseason previously has been perfunctory for Wilson. But whether he realizes it or not, this one is not. It’s his opportunity to prove he’s still got it. His career depends on it.
But not to him.
“I know it’s part of the evaluation. Everybody goes through it,” he said. “[I] just do what I have to do.”