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Afternoon Practice – Chris Wilson Feels Good, Finds A Loophole In The Hotel Rules

Posted by Matt Terl on July 30, 2009 – 5:28 pm

There were two major stories at afternoon practice:

1) Guys being held out. Phillip Daniels, Cornelius Griffin, Malcolm Kelly, and Albert Haynesworth were all held out of most of the action this afternoon to help preserve them and keep them fresh as we come up to the season. They were taking those good old “mental reps” on the sideline. Dominique Dorsey left on a cart, which was momentarily worrisome, but it turned out to be due to cramps. Cramps that were due at least in part to…

2) The heat. It was very, very hot this afternoon. There’s not much more of a story to it than that, it was just very hot, and it was wearing guys — who haven’t settled into this routine yet, remember — down quickly.

Partially as a result of that, the afternoon’s practice seemed to be something of a mixed bag every time I tried to watch someone.

Santana Moss would look quick and big, and then seem tired a play later. Ladell Betts had a couple of nice runs and a couple of dropped passes. Colt Brennan threw a couple of his how-did-that-get caught passes, and a couple that were less successful.

And rookie Kevin Barnes‘s performance was such a mixed bag that defensive coordinator Greg Blache felt compelled to explain: “Well he’s a rookie, and so he played like a rookie. Quite honestly, he’ll be out there and make a great play, but then he’ll make a mistake and you’ll just think to yourself, ‘Son, that’s just not the way it’s supposed to happen.’ He is a classic, typical rookie. And that’s not a compliment.”

Meanwhile, I spent some time trying to see how Chris Wilson was doing with his move to linebacker, especially with rookie Brian Orakpo not yet in camp, but it seemed like every time I looked over, he was at pass rushing defensive end.
“Well, I’m a pass rusher, man,” he told me afterward. “I never ever wanted to leave pass rushing. That’s one of the main reasons that my attitude has been so great about the transition, why I thought it would be great. Because I love rushing the quarterback, you know, my favorite player was Reggie White, so I was excited to keep doing that.”

And how did it go today? “Today went well, man. Definitely could’ve gone better, but it went well. I feel a whole lot more comfortable than I did in the OTAs, and … I’m just anxious to get better and make my first big play, you know?”

I was interested to know why some things could’ve gone better, and Wilson confirmed my attempts to blame the weather.

“It got hot,” he said. “And, you know, when it gets hot you do dumb stuff. You take an extra step, do stuff that you don’t normally do. You don’t go to your leverage, and the result of that is that you get beat. I just want to get loose and get on my roll.”

With Orakpo not yet in camp, Wilson is getting a little more time, and he knows just how valuable that is. “It is what it is as far as [Orakpo’s situation]. That’s what’s happening, though: I’m getting more reps, getting all the kinks out, feeling more comfortable, so by the time we get to these first preseason games, I can make a good campaign for myself.”

Wilson has accomplished one other remarkable feat this training camp: despite only being a third-year player, he convinced Coach Zorn to let him stay at his house like the veterans, not in the hotel with the other young guys.

“I was in a specific category,” he explains. “You know, I’m 27 years old, I got a family at home too. You can look at my rap sheet, see that I never got in trouble. I’m just here to play football.”

The third-year number is sort of deceptive as well. “Another thing that went in my favor was the two years in Canada. Even though that’s not the NFL, that’s two professional years where … you don’t thrive in this time of business without being responsible, you know? He just understood that.”

I asked if he had been allowed to mention this exception to the other players — and if, by extension, I could write about it. Wilson was hesitant, but not because his living situation was a secret from his teammates. “Everybody thinks I look so young, I want to be able to say I’m 27 for two more years, you know?”

Blache, for the records, had a slightly more positive review of Wilson’s performance.

“You know,” he said, “I complimented [linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti] this morning on the phenomenal job he’s done with Wilson, because he’s playing better at [strong side linebacker], in my opinion, than he ever played at defensive end. KO’s done a much better job coaching him than I’ve ever did. That’s why I tell him, he gets Coach of the Month award, ’cause he’s got Wilson playing so well. I mean, Wilson’s playing the best football he’s played since he’s been here with us.”

So Blache is more complimentary of Wilson than Wilson is, which is exactly what you hope to see from a young player at this point.

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