There are numerous complications to learning a new position. When you add a full contact practice setting it becomes more difficult.
George Wilson's transition from wide receiver to safety began early in the offseason and took off in the Bills' OTAs and mini camp. During those weeks he was able to learn the intricacies of his new position playing in shorts and helmets. Playing in a non-contact setting allowed him to learn his assignments while not worrying about giving or receiving hits.
Two and a half weeks into training camp, Wilson is now learning about the physicality of playing safety.
"One thing I have learned quickly is you are going to get a new knick or bruise everyday," said Wilson.
In identifying plays and learning his keys, Wilson caught on that playing in a full contact setting complicates finding the ball and making plays.
"In pads it is a lot harder to read run and pass when the offense has good play fakes. In pads you have to tie it all together," said Wilson. "You are taking on blockers and most of the time guys are bigger than I am and you have to shed them and make the play in the hole for a minimal gain."
Adding pads and contact to practice has not, in any way, set Wilson back on learning to play safety. At this point in the offseason, Wilson is familiar enough with the Bills defense to know where he needs to be, the key now is to hone in on what he needs to improve on.
The first thing out of Wilson's mouth when asked about his first game at safety was how much fun he had. While he made no glaring mistakes there are things in his game that need to be repaired.
"It was a pretty interesting game for George. It was either feast or famine," said secondary coach George Catavolos. "He had a little trouble with his keys early but once he got them down he was pretty solid in his play."
With a week to prepare for his first home game as a safety, Wilson knows what he needs to work on in practice leading up to the game.
"I need to narrow my vision and look at my keys so I can get a quicker read on the run or pass," said Wilson. "I just need to continue to play with leverage and be in the proper position when I am covering and when I'm coming in to make the tackle."
Wilson, along with many of his teammates, was eager to play against someone wearing a helmet that wasn't red. Hitting opponents was a welcome change for Wilson.
"We have been banging and hitting each other for the first two weeks of camp so it felt god to get out there and take some of that frustration and aggression out on someone other than your teammates," said Wilson. "It raises your level of competitiveness and lets you see what type of aggression and physical play you play with."
Being able to hit an opponent was not the only satisfying part of Wilson's first game. After spending many years watching out for linebackers and safeties while running routes as a receiver, Wilson was able to turn the tables against the Saints.
"It was a lot different being on the other side rather than trying to avoid the big hit on offense and you are trying to create the big hit on defense," said Wilson. "It was a different mentality and I had a great time out there."
Wilson still has strides to make through the rest of the preseason. As he adjusts to playing in a live setting in the defensive secondary, he needs to make progress every time he steps on the field.
Unlike the other safeties on the roster, Wilson has not been playing defense for an extended period of time. Coach Catavolos said he was pleased with Wilson's performance but Wilson must continue to develop at his new position.
"I still have a long way to go; I still have a few things to work on so I can show a lot progress from game one to game two," said Wilson. "I can't go out this week in the game and make the same mistakes that I have been making. I just need to show them that I am making progress and make some more plays."
Wilson's defensive involvement can only increase as he continues to take steps forward on the practice field. While playing in pads temporarily complicated Wilson's learning curve, he has not stumbled in his transition to safety.