NASHVILLE, Tenn. —
|George Wilson is excited to join Tennessee's defense in the second major change of his NFL career. The first occurred in 2007, when he switched from receiver to safety with the Bills and returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown against Dallas in his first start.|
He considers the next major change — agreeing to a multiyear contract with Tennessee on Feb. 22 — as a way to write a new chapter. Wilson wants to build relationships with Titans teammates and the community, and is excited about returning closer to his hometown of Paducah, Ky., which is about 135 miles from Nashville.
Former Bills coach Dick Jauron and Wilson discussed the switch from offense to defense before the 2007 season. Buffalo’s staff liked the physical play that Wilson brought on special teams and as a blocker on run plays, but he hadn’t scored a touchdown or recorded a catch in a game.
“At that point, I hadn’t really seen the playing field, so I thought this might be the opportunity I’ve been waiting for,” Wilson recalled. “With that mindset, I traded in my playbooks and started working on backpedaling and getting timing in the passing game. It was certainly a challenge early on, and then what I had to do was ask myself, ‘What do I currently have that will assist me and shorten this learning curve of moving to safety?’
“I just tried to take the information and the knowledge from wide receiver, as far as weaknesses of coverages, and quarterback drops and wide receiver splits and just reading the body language of a route runner,” Wilson continued. “Those things really helped shorten the learning curve and helped me to make plays early on in my career. I think had I not made that position change, I wouldn’t be having this conversation about being a Tennessee Titan. I certainly believe that position change preserved and saved my career.”
Positive results didn’t take long.
Wilson made his first start at the defensive position against Dallas on Oct. 8, 2007, and intercepted a Tony Romo pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown. He made nine starts that season and stayed at the position, being elected as a team captain in each of the past five seasons. Wilson played in 92 games with the Bills, including 55 starts.
For several years Wilson welcomed new teammates to the Bills, helping them get through their initial reservations and feel more at home with their new team. He said he expects a natural icebreaker to occur once the Titans begin their offseason workouts in April. Wilson is maintaining his fitness with workouts but looks forward to learning new terminology once the Titans convene.
“I know it’s a lot of work ahead for me but I’m definitely excited to get in there and get to know my teammates and start learning the scheme and verbiage and communication with the guys on defense,” Wilson said. “I’m really looking forward to it. I know it’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead.”
Wilson hasn’t arrived in Nashville yet, but his reputation as a player with great character has rippled through radio and internet waves. The Bills released Wilson on Feb. 11 in a salary-saving move, and Buffalo employees published stories and fans commented on how great Wilson had been in their communities. He also drew positive reviews after a radio interview Thursday with 104-5’s The Zone.
“It definitely feels good to know how people think of me, especially when you’re no longer playing for the team that they cheer for,” Wilson said. “For the Bills fans to still show love and support my way, it definitely means a lot. I’ve had a strong connection in the community there with a lot of work that I’ve done, and it’s greatly appreciated to know the time that I spent and the work I did while I was there didn’t go unappreciated.
“Now that I’m moving on to Tennessee, I have to live up to the words and the compliments and all of that that I’ve been receiving since I’ve left Buffalo,” Wilson said. “For me, I just have to continue to be myself and show my new teammates who I am rather than tell them myself.”
Titans free safety
“(Wilson) has a lot of knowledge of the game, an older, vet-guy,” Griffin said. “You could see he was able to get Jairus Byrd on the right track of being one of the top safeties in the league right now, especially with takeaways. I’m pretty sure he has a lot of knowledge to spread throughout the locker room, and I’m looking forward to meeting him and getting to talk to him.”
Wilson said when he received the call that he had been released by the Bills, his initial thought was to wonder if he would get another opportunity. That question was answered within a couple of hours as multiple teams contacted him for discussions.
“That gave me a lot of hope, a lot of optimism, knowing there were teams out there that were interested in my services. That helped me get over the fact that I was no longer playing in Buffalo,” Wilson said. “Once I was able to go on my team visits and visit with the coaching staffs, that gave me a pretty good idea of where I would like to go. After taking everything in consideration, I just felt that Tennessee would be the perfect fit for me.”
Wilson visited the Titans and reconnected with defensive coordinator Jerry Gray, who had an overlap in Buffalo, and with offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, who was a teammate of Wilson’s at the University of Arkansas. He said he’s liked what he’s seen from past times when Gray and new defense senior assistant coach Gregg Williams have worked together in the past and looks forward to being part of what they’ll do in 2013.
“I’m excited about coming to Tennessee and doing my part to help us get to that second season (the playoffs) so we have a shot at winning the championship,” Wilson said.