Midway through the Giants’ practice today,
“That felt good,” Wilson said. “I definitely know I’m cleared now.”
For Wilson, the play – and the training camp practice – was a milestone. He had not worn shoulder pads or been hit on a football field since last Oct. 6, when he injured his neck against Philadelphia. The injury eventually required surgery and forced Wilson to have a relatively inactive offseason. He was cleared for full contact on Monday, the day the players reported to camp.
The Giants wore shoulder pads for the first time today, and for Wilson it was a feeling at once familiar and strange.
“It was a little different – a lot different, because that’s the longest I’ve ever been out of pads,” he said. “Basically, I had two offseasons. The first five minutes of practice I was lifting my arms, trying to get adjusted to the pads again, especially because I got a brand new pair of pads. So they’re not even the last pair of pads I wore. But it felt good to go back out there with my teammates and compete again.
“In the OTAs and minicamp we don’t have on pads, so it’s like, ‘Alright, I’m playing football but I’m not really out there playing football.’ But when you get the pads on and the linemen get the thud up and you get to really see where the holes are and you thud up with the linebackers in pass protection and different things, all that is what I’ve been missing.”
Wearing pads was a bigger adjustment than getting hit because, as Wilson pointed out, you don’t need to be on a football field to have frequent contact.
“I can just go to Times Square and get bumped into a couple times down there,” he said. “But it’s average people, not some of the world’s best athletes.”
Wilson said he was not looking to get that first hit out of the way early.
“I didn’t really think about it, because I never had any pain other than the initial contact from my injury,” he said. “Thirty seconds after that hit, I felt fine. It’s kind of hard to be cautious about something that you’ve never felt. As far as my mindset, it’s the same as me going out there any other season. It was just the anticipation of the contact or getting back into it. It doesn’t feel like football until you feel that. So it felt good to go out there and get that today.”
There was no contact the second time Wilson touched the ball. He blasted through a hole on the left side and sprinted down the field.
“That felt good,” he said. “That was my biggest thing, I didn’t lose a stride. All of the off time, they were telling me, ‘Don’t work out, don’t work out, don’t work out,’ because I could possibly make it worse. They wanted me to just rest. With that long rest, I guess I got frustrated, because I didn’t lose any of my speed. All of my teammates are still complimenting my speed and telling me how fast I am. I can clearly see it when I blow past defenders. I’m hoping all of this can transition to the game field and we can win a lot of games and have a lot of highlights.”
Wilson is splitting time in the backfield with veteran offseason acquisition
“Sometimes we go through a period and we only get two reps each,” Wilson said. “But (running backs) coach (Craig) Johnson is doing a great job of balancing out the reps. Each day he’s switching up the rotation to make sure we get certain things, certain plays so all of us have run every play. He is making sure the reps are divided evenly and randomly. We’re just waiting for the first preseason game now.”
That will be a week from Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game against Buffalo in Canton, Ohio.
“I’m just taking advantage of these days,” Wilson said, “and trying to get better each day so I can get back into it, so it won’t be a shock when I’m up in Canton.”
“It was good to have the pads on,” he said. “They were frisky. I thought the energy was good. They ran pretty well, which was a good thing. That was the intent.”
*First round draft choice
“He seems like he’s frisky enough out here,” Coughlin said. “Today he was catching the ball from the machine and seemed to be moving around okay. So hopefully it’s not going to take too long.”