The Patriots have donned jerseys without numbers and most of their work has come on the field furthest away from the prying eyes of the media, so it's not always apparent which players are responsible for various plays during spring camps.
One such case came during OTAs a while back when a defensive player covering the short zone made a nice play to prevent a completion. The problem was figuring out who it was. The player was manning a linebacker position in what was clearly a sub packages, and his physical stature was reminiscent of Jerod Mayo.
Turns out it wasn't Mayo, and it wasn't even a linebacker. The fact that a safety could be confused for a 250-pound linebacker is noteworthy, and Adrian Wilson's sturdy 6-3, 230-pound frame may often be seen close to the line of scrimmage in 2013.
It's a role the 13th-year veteran is familiar with having been utilized both in coverage and as a pass rusher during his distinguished career in Arizona. Wilson had 25.5 sacks and 27 interceptions in his 12 years with Cardinals, and now begins life as a Patriot after signing a three-year, $5 million deal in March.
His experience is something Bill Belichick believes could be beneficial in the Patriots young secondary.
"Adrian has done a good job," Belichick said before a mini-camp practice. "He's worked hard, very professional. He has a real good attitude and has a lot of experience. We will see how the rest of it plays out, but I would imagine what [his teammates] were referring to is the way that he carries himself, the way he goes about his job. I think he's very well respected."
Wilson is enjoying his time both on the field and in the meeting rooms with his new team. While watching film and immersing himself in the playbook have been helpful, he believes there's no substitute for reps on the practice field, especially when it comes to familiarizing himself with his new teammates.
"I think on the field the communication is a lot better than it is in the classroom," Wilson said. "We can't actually call the calls in the classroom as we can on the field. . . . The classroom stuff is the classroom stuff. Actually getting out on the field and learning against live competition is something different."
Wilson has been impressed with his new secondary mates. At 33 he is the elder statesman of the group but he's also the least experienced among those with playing time in New England. He was quite complementary of the group and the way they've helped his transition thus far.
"Guys plays hard, guys have been in this system, so they're making it a lot easier on me," Wilson said. "Those guys have already been in the system, they know the system, just being in the classroom with those guys, [it's nice to be able to] sit beside Steve [Gregory], sit beside Devin [McCourty], those guys, they know the playbook so being able to ask questions of them and not put so much pressure on the coach."
The Patriots haven't had an imposing figure at safety since Rodney Harrison days ended in 2008. Wilson should be in the mix among a group that includes last year's starters McCourty and Gregory, second-year man Tavon Wilson as well as rookie third-round pick Duron Harmon. For now, though, he's simply focused on getting up to speed.
"I try to stress myself as much as I can, just try to get as much as I can down in the playbook, different positions on the field that you have to know," Wilson said. "Just being able to get those adjustments down without any mistakes."
"I just think everybody is trying to learn each other, I think that's a pretty good expectation. I'm just trying to work hard."