Adrian Wilson has a rep, one of the hardest hitters in the NFL, a tough guy with a career marked by five Pro Bowls and three All-Pro selections. At 6-3, 230 pounds, even at age 33, he impressed general manager Phil Emery enough to be signed to a contract a month ago.
But he is not impressed with what he is seeing in current training camps, even as the new restrictive rules serve to theoretically preserve bodies. Don’t try selling that to Wilson. Indeed, he thinks the softer rules were for the benefits of the new kids in the game.
“I come from the old school, so I think it’s bad,” Wilson said on Thursday. “But those guys changed the rules for the younger guys coming in, which I think are pretty soft. But, you know, it is what it is.”
Wilson, in shape and perhaps with a year added to his career because of a 2013 season lost to a foot injury, was accustomed to more. “[The old system] was two practices, real practices, not a walkthrough practice in the afternoon that’s just an hour,” Wilson said. “It was pretty much a grind. These last two years having the new rules of the CBA and everything, it’s kind of just like a regular practice. It’s not really taxing on your body.”
If Wilson is blunt and expansive about some of what he is seeing in younger players, he equally blunt toward doubters, even if his real feelings are very thinly veiled.
“I take a lot of the critics that said I can’t play, that it was a terrible signing by the Bears and all this other stuff that’s being said,” Wilson said. “I use that as motivation for me.”
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The Bears certainly didn’t think Wilson, just the sixth player in NFL history to record 25 interceptions and 25 sacks, was a terrible signing. But Wilson is not being installed as the starter, which he was the last 11 of his 12 years with the Arizona Cardinals.
“In terms of how he moved around, the burst he displayed, the hand and ball skills, there’s no reason not to sign him, to put him in the competitive mix,” Emery said. “That position’s wide open. If Adrian Wilson walks in here and he’s in football shape and, like the rest of them, stays healthy, he can claim the job. But he’s gonna have a fight on his hands.”
Wilson is OK with a fight. He faced the end of his career about this time last year when he developed Haglund’s Deformity, a bony enlargement at the back of the heel that can involve bursitis.
Wilson was irritated at reports that he’d suffered an Achilles injury – “I don’t know where that came from” – but his real frustration was the difficulty dealing with and coming back from the problem.
“It was terrible,” Wilson said. “I really can’t describe it right now because all the cameras are in my face, but the words that I want to use aren’t words that I can use on camera and all this other stuff. It was pretty bad.”