George Wilson has never been opposed to trying new things, so when the Buffalo Bills coaches approached the wide receiver with the idea of working at strong safety during the offseason minicamps, he jumped at the chance.
The Bills have ample numbers at receiver but are a little thin at safety. Since Wilson hasn't seen the field as a receiver the last two seasons, he figured a position change might be his best opportunity to make the team.
"It's all about showing the coaches you can do different things," Wilson said. "I want to show that not only can I be a good receiver, but I can do some good things on the other side of the football."
What was viewed as an experiment may turn out to be a permanent move. Wilson has made quite an impression during the past two weeks of the Bills' workouts. He has intercepted a couple of passes and shown steady improvement each practice.
"George is a real smart guy and a hard worker," defensive backs coach George Catavolos said. "He spends a lot of time looking at film and evaluating himself. He's progressed from the first [organized team activities]. He understands the formations, where he's supposed to be, and now he's getting his movement skills down quicker. He's getting better every day."
Wilson admitted his head was swimming after the first couple of practices. He was unsure about what he was doing. He second-guessed his alignments and assignments. But once he settled down and got more comfortable his play improved.
"Things are beginning to slow down a little bit, and I'm not as overwhelmed," Wilson said.
"I still have a long ways to go, but the more looks I get out here in practice the better I'll get."
Wilson added the encouragement he gets from coaches and teammates has accelerated his development. He is usually talking to his fellow defensive backs about how to line up and what keys to read.
Walking off the field Thursday, Wilson was in deep conversation with free safety Ko Simpson about various assignments and techniques. During practice, Wilson was bending the ear of Donte Whitner and Jim Leonhard.
"When you've played a certain position all your life and then switch to another one, it's hard," Whitner said. "But George has handled it really well, better than anyone expected. He looks natural out there.
"Whenever a guy is a hard worker you want to see him succeed."
Support also comes from the other side of the ball.
"Whenever I run a route against him, I point out things he did right or wrong," wide receiver Peerless Price said. "He's a teammate, and it's my job to do what I can to help him become a better player, whether he's playing offense or defense. I would love for him to stay over with us because I think he can play receiver in this league. But it's amazing how he took the move in stride. I told him to just go out there and seize the moment, and he is doing that. It puts a smile on my face to see him doing so well."
Wilson will remain at safety through next week's training camp and is expected to get more work there. Catavolos said Wilson is far from a finished product, and he's interested to see how he adjusts when exposed to real game action. But Catavolos is encouraged so far.
"I know we're not playing next week or next month, so I have some time to get acquainted with the system and get my body in better shape to play on the other side of the ball," Wilson said. "No longer am I dodging the hit. Now I'm delivering the hits, so I have to get ready physically as well as mentally."
Punter Brian Moorman will host a Family Festival on Saturday from noon through 8 p.m. at Brierwood Country Club in Hamburg. Tickets are $10 (free for ages 5 and under). All proceeds go to Moorman's PUNT Foundation, which supports Western New York children affected by cancer. The festival will feature appearances by children's entertainer Glenn Colton and The Reptile Guy from Nickel City Reptiles and Exotics. Tickets can be purchased at participating Wilson Farms stores, at BrianMoorman.com or at the door.