Adrian Wilson can feel good about his NFL resume.
The 6-3 strong safety has started 162 of 181 games played in 12 years with the Cardinals. He has 716 tackles, 25.5 sacks, and 27 interceptions. He has the most single-season sacks by a defensive back in NFL history. He's Arizona's all-time leader in passes defensed (99) and forced fumbles (15). He's a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro.
Yet Arizona released him March 8.
Wilson's former every-down role was reduced last season. He wasn't used in the team's nickel and dime packages. He wasn't used in pass coverage. Some analysts speculated the 33-year old was slowing down.
Is that what the Patriots got when signing him this offseason? A once-great safety?
"The situation last year was strictly a coaches’ decision," Wilson told reporters Thursday. "I don’t think that had anything to do with me losing a step, but obviously nobody gets younger; they only get older. Physically I feel great. I take great care of my body, so that’s not an issue as far as where I’m at physically.
"That was a coaches’ call," he repeated. "It was something that I had to deal with and I dealt with and I continued to practice hard and just kept trying to encourage the guys and kept moving forward."
It's hard to imagine his presence in New England won't be a positive.
The team has a converted cornerback at free safety in Devin McCourty. Last year's second-round draft pick Tavon Wilson should figure in more this upcoming season, but is still unproven. Steve Gregory seems best suited in sub packages or as a depth player. Patrick Chung is gone to Philadelphia.
So maybe Wilson wasn't a hard sell. At the very least, his veteran leadership would be welcome -- not unlike Aqib Talib's at corner -- in what is an inconsistent secondary. At best, the Patriots might get their big hitter, a true strong safety.
Wilson thinks he's still got it.
"I believe my tape doesn’t lie. I think whatever I put on tape, that’s what I am. You can’t change what you put on tape," Wilson said. I came in in 2001, so there weren’t all these rules where you can’t hit players and all this other stuff. I was brought up in that toughness type of aspect and the aspect of setting the tone for the defense, being that guy that would go out and do whatever he had to do to let the offense know what type of day it was going to be. That’s what I came up in when I first came into the league."
"Football is physical; football is a man’s sport. I just hope that I can convey that same message to the secondary that we have there in New England now. Just go out there and be Adrian and be who I am."