Adrian Wilson got on the conference call, and, in little surprise, feigned ignorance he was named to the NFC Pro Bowl roster Tuesday.
“I’m just sitting here watching tape of Seattle,” the veteran safety said. “I don’t really know what y’all are talking about.
“This is my tape time right now.”
It was classic Wilson deadpan, but the Pro Bowl has always meant something to him. Rookie return man Patrick Peterson – thanks to his NFL-record-tying four punt return touchdowns – and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald also got Pro Bowl nods, but it was Wilson who overcame the most to land there.
“I want to thank my teammates and the coaching staff and the whole organization for sticking with me and being patient with me,” Wilson said. “This is much more about them than me. Obviously I struggled early on, but things like that happen. It was an up-and-down year and it started off bad … the cards were stacked against us, so to speak.”
Fitzgerald, averaging a career-high 17.8 yards a reception, has been excellent as always with his 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns on only 71 receptions. Peterson had to overcome arguably the greatest return man in NFL history in Chicago’s Devin Hester to earn his spot.
Fitzgerald and Wilson are the Pro Bowl veterans, with the wide receiver and safety making their sixth and fifth NFC rosters, respectively. Fitzgerald has made five straight teams, and Wilson four, and each will be starters for the fourth time.
The one glaring omission would be defensive end
Wilson was fighting his own battles. Last year he didn’t perform as well as he would have liked and battled a torn abductor muscle much of the season, yet still made the Pro Bowl. Then came his early-season roller-coaster this year starting with the fluke practice injury.
“I was thinking about that earlier today,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I remember talking about whether he’d have a chance to play, and you have to tip your cap to Adrian. It goes to show you the tremendous respect other players and teams have for Adrian.”
He acknowledged he hasn’t provided as many impact plays as he has in the past, but he’s also being used differently and he feels he has performed consistently enough to have earned his recognition.
“This defense is more about what everybody does and not just one player,” said Wilson, who has 69 tackles, eight for loss, an interception, a forced fumble and a team-best 14 passes defensed. “Everything about the scheme is different. To get adjusted to that, it was hard. But it’s worked out for us.”
Fitzgerald tied running back Ollie Matson, guard Ken Gray and tackle Dan Dierdorf for the most Pro Bowl selections by an offensive player in team history (Safety Larry Wilson was named to eight Pro Bowls and cornerback Roger Wehrli made seven).
Fitzgerald’s receptions are down – he will have his fewest catches since 2006 – and “I feel like the more times I touch the ball, I can make things happen, but that’s the way it’s gone this year.”
His spot was easier to predict than Peterson’s, given Hester’s reputation. But Peterson took the league by storm and has a league-high 636 punt return yards (15.9-yard average on 40 returns) along with the four touchdowns.
“When you return one 99 yards for a touchdown,” Whisenhunt said, referencing Peterson’s overtime game-winner against the Rams, “it gets a lot of people’s attention.”
Peterson admitted he started thinking about the Pro Bowl after he started nearing the touchdown record. Already nursing an Achilles strain – he said it was “50-50” that he would be able to play in the season finale Sunday – it was a small upset he was picked instead of Hester.
“Larry would tell me, ‘You’ve got to go for the record because you’re going against Goliath,’ ” Peterson said. “I told him, ‘I know.’ The 10 guys in front of me and (special teams) coach (Kevin) Spencer continued to block each and every return. It’s been a great year.”