New Bears safety Adrian Wilson could be the heel of the offseason
BY PATRICK FINLEY Staff Reporter July 24, 2014 9:57PM
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Updated: August 26, 2014 6:41AM
BOURBONNAIS — Adrian Wilson will start his 14th training camp Friday not worried about the other contenders for the starting job at strong safety.
“I’m just going out there and competing with myself,” he said Thursday. “I’m not competing with anybody.”
When you’ve been to the Pro Bowl five times, upholding your own standards — or those of your former self — is more challenging than it sounds.
Fact is, though, Wilson doesn’t need to replicate his All-Pro seasons to help the Bears at safety.
With Chris Conte on the physically unable to perform list and Brock Vereen ready to participate in his first-ever camp Friday at Olivet Nazarene University, a passable impersonation would suffice.
“People look at a guy who’s been in the league for a while and they say, ‘Maybe he’s toward the end of their career,’ ” running back Matt Forte said. “But that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute. He’s still a beast.”
At 6-3, 230 pounds, Wilson looked among the most fit of any player —Methuselah meets Jillian Michaels — despite being less than three months away from his 35th birthday.
Wilson, who earned a contract after wowing general manager Phil Emery at a Halas Hall workout in June, has the motivation to match.
“I still think I have burst,” Wilson said. “I still think I can play.”
Wilson traded in the bump on his heel for a chip on his shoulder.
“I took 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,” he said. “I’ll use that as motivation for me.”
His perception of the doubters might be overblown as even Wilson admitted the signing was “low-risk for them and high-reward.”
But he’s healthy, having missed last season, his only one with the Patriots, because of Haglund’s Deformity.
The bony enlargement on his heel — nicknamed “pump bump” because of the propensity of high-heeled women to get it — required 10 weeks in a hard cast.
Wilson called the offseason “terrible,” joking that, were television cameras not in his face, he would have used more colorful verbiage.
“It took me a while even to start walking again,” he said. “I’m healthy now, though.”
Ryan Mundy, who spent most of the spring as the first-team strong safety, took the signing as a challenge.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked rhetorically. “I think Phil Emery and coach [Marc] Trestman, they made it clear that this training camp was about competition. And bringing in a veteran like Adrian Wilson is gonna create more competition in the defensive backfield.
“But it’s something that I look forward to. ... At one point in time, he was an All-Pro, Pro Bowler guy. So there’s always something to learn there.”
The Bears think so — or are willing to find out, at least. It might not be at Mundy’s expense, either, if the two positions are as interchangeable as Trestman claims.
When Wilson signed after mandatory minicamp, he studied the digital playbook while discussing the defense with veterans Jared Allen, Charles Tillman, Lance Briggs and others.
“Good thing they make iPads,” Wilson said. “For the people that know me, they know how obsessed I am with just learning the ins and the outs of the defense.”
Wilson called himself a proud man — one who’s excited to improve on last season’s lost year.
“I think he can help us out,” Forte said, “especially if we get him out in the field and he’s able to grasp onto the defensive concepts and all that stuff.”