Since the departure of Rodney Harrison in 2008, the New England Patriots defense has lacked the type of leadership that can only be found in a seasoned veteran. While a couple attempts have been made – Gerard Warren, Junior Seau – none have had the overwhelming impact that Harrison did.
Enter Adrian Wilson, a recently-signed safety who spent his first 12 years in the league with the Arizona Cardinals.
Known for his leadership qualities, Wilson helped turn a Cardinals team that was once considered the laughingstock of the NFL into a respectable franchise. While that’s far from the case in New England, his abilities as a role model and icon will bring something to the defensive side of the ball that the Patriots haven’t had since Harrison.
Whether it’s on or off the field, Wilson has always been known as a leader who knows that actions speak louder than words. That mindset, however, has been carefully molded over time into what it is now because of what he had to endure with the Cardinals.
“I was a follower first,” Wilson said. “I was a guy that first came into the league, I watched veteran guys that were already on the team. I took my backseat to learn from all those guys and molded myself into what I wanted to be as a player. To be on a team that wasn’t very good coming in, really adds to it a lot more as far as film study. We weren’t playing with 10-plus Pro Bowl players on the team, so a lot of our work was probably a lot more than what the other team that were good was.”
Following his release from Arizona, Wilson’s career is in need of jolt. The hard-hitting, in-your-face safety has enjoyed his fair share of success throughout his career, but is on the wrong side of 30 years and could soon find himself careening down the backside of the proverbial peak.
A fresh start with the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick, however, could bring the best out of what’s left in Wilson, much like it did for Harrison.
While Wilson has made it clear that he’s trying to avoid comparisons to Harrison, the connections are undeniable. But instead of speculating any further, we’ll leave it up to him to end his NFL legacy on his own terms.