To have one of the team captains and leaders of the defense playing Sunday is important for any team, but the way Adrian Wilson got to the end of this road – dealing with a biceps tear a week in training camp, and not playing any of the preseason games – makes the safety’s return to the field Sunday an amazing feat.
While the Cards would rather have never had Wilson get hurt, maybe they can actually get an emotional benefit from it. Or, to hear Wilson analyze it, maybe not.
“I don’t know if it’s a boost because, technically, I haven’t played,” Wilson said Friday. “It wasn’t like I was out there in the first preseason game or anything like that. Normally, I’d be out there for the first game anyway.
“Just the weekend in itself is more important than any individual person.”
That’s true, with the season opener combining with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. If anything, coach Ken Whisenhunt said, the team gets a boost from Wilson just from the mere fact one of the better players will be on the field.
“Physically, it’s quite impressive with what he has been able to do,” Whisenhunt said. “It goes back to how good of shape he was in before the injury. Why the offseason is so important is because you can get in the best shape you can so if you get nicked up in training camp, it hastens your recovery time. Adrian is a great example of that. We all know how physically gifted he is.
“He has worked. He has been to all the treatments, been to all the meetings, stayed in tune to what is going on. As far as what will happen Sunday, I don’t know. We will see. But I’m excited Adrian will be back out there.”
Wilson has been practicing since the tail end of camp in Flagstaff. He has practiced fully all week, although he knows game shape is different than practice shape. He is curious to perform in a game, seeing that he hasn’t been in one since the Pro Bowl and hasn’t tackled anyone since his injury.
Whisenhunt said he will wear a pad to protect the injured area from a direct hit, but beyond that, Wilson is healthy enough to play without any restrictions. On that point, Wilson said he’s never had any doubt.
“I have always been in good spirits,” Wilson said. “I never once doubted I could come back. I’ve been the same way since it happened. … Anything is possible. You (media) ruled me out. I never ruled myself out.”
That was with his hometown Cleveland Browns. The 10-year veteran was wondering if he would get another opportunity to kick in the league.
“The frustrating thing about being injured is you know you still have the ability, but you have to get to the point where you get back out there and have a chance,” Zastudil said. “Coaches believed in me and that meant a lot. I am here to win the field-position battle.”
In his last two seasons in Cleveland, he averaged 45.5 and 44.7 yards a punt (netting 39.4 and 39.1 yards, respectively).
When Zastudil got hurt in 2009, he was second in the league at the time at dropping punts inside the 20 to the man he replaced, Ben Graham (who ended up tying an NFL-record that season in the category). Zastudil wasn’t signed until the final week of training camp in Flagstaff, although it might have been sooner had Zastudil not been battling a “little oblique injury.”
He said he’s healthy now, and he was “thankful” the Cardinals allowed him “build into the job” once he arrived.
“I just was hoping someone would give me a chance,” Zastudil said. “Being a veteran guy, you learn a lot, and coming in, I felt relaxed. I had to control my emotions because I was excited just to put on a helmet again.”
“I really did feel I had a shot there,” Rivera said. “(The Cards) made a great choice though. Ken has done a tremendous job and I like what he’s done in terms of putting that team in a good place.”
Rivera, in inheriting a team that won just twice last season and is breaking in a rookie quarterback, is just trying to bring a fresh start to Carolina.
“(We want) a mentality that we are working in a different direction, we have a different attitude, we’ve got a different way of doing things,” Rivera said. “We were trying to get across to the guys what happened last season is over, we’re moving forward, we’re looking ahead. We’re going to create our own situation, circumstance, and do the best we can with it.”