For the first time in his NFL career George Wilson will play for a different team.
That’s not to say he has not changed.
Relative to the switch he made six years ago with the Buffalo Bills, his move to the Tennessee Titans as a free agent this offseason figures to be easy by comparison. An undrafted wide receiver out of Arkansas when he entered the league it was his willingness — and ability — to move to safety that kept him around long enough to be in this spot.
“It’s tough,” he said. “Fortunately for me I got a real opportunity when I changed positions. Often times they’re just trying something out and hoping something sticks. But Buffalo genuinely gave me an opportunity to make that transition and to go out, make mistakes and learn from those practices and stuff.”
Wilson is one of three Titans’ newcomers who spent the last seven seasons with their previous teams. Wide receiver Kevin Walter (Houston) and tight end Delanie Walker (San Francisco) had similar stays.
No one else’s previous stop lasted longer than five seasons, which likely means the adjustment is not as extreme.
• Kevin Walter, wide receiver — Houston: seven years, 109 games
• Delanie Walker, tight end — San Francisco: seven years, 99 games
• George Wilson, safety — Buffalo: seven years, 92 games
• Antonio Johnson, defensive tackle — Indianapolis: five years, 67 games
• Andy Levitre, guard — Buffalo: four years, 64 games
• Shonn Greene, running back — New York Jets: four years, 61 games
• Sammie Hill, defensive tackle — Detroit: four years, 59 games
• Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback — Buffalo: four years, 55 games
• Bernard Pollard, safety — Baltimore: two years, 29 games
• Chris Spencer, guard/center — Chicago: two years, 27 games
All the newcomers, including draft picks, are now in their second week of organized team activities (OTAs), the first chance for players on offense and defense to work against one another.
Arguably no position on the Tennessee roster needed an influx of talent more than safety. Thus, Wilson’s ability to make the transition is essential during offseason work.
“I was with Wilson when he transferred from a wide receiver over to a defensive back,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “… He was a free agent guy who kept working, kept working, kept working. All of a sudden he’s been in this league a long time.
“You tell guys, ‘You have to be smart and understand what you’re doing.’ He’s really smart. He picks up our system just like that.”
Wilson was a little-used wide receiver his first two years in the league. He switched positions in 2007 and started nine games that year for the Buffalo defense. The last five years he was a team captain.
“It was a big challenge but I just tried to apply what I had from my offensive background to help me understand the weaknesses of coverages and the body language of tight ends and wide receivers running routes,” he said. “So I just had to think about what I already knew from an offensive side of the ball and apply it to the defensive side.”
That is one thing that will not change now that he’s with a different team.
“Right now I’m kind making sure I know what to do on defense,” Wilson said. “I continue to fine-tune my technique, get more comfortable in the scheme and then I’ll be able to lean on a lot of those things I have from my offensive background.
“You have to get better at something every day, fine-tune your craft, perfect your craft. By the end of OTAs or mini-camp you just hope to be strides better than when you started.”