WR Wilson primed to produce

Training camp is set to begin Monday, and Cedrick Wilson is standing tall on the 49ers' roster while that established free-agent wide receiver the Niners reportedly were going to bring in during the spring isn't. After Willie Jackson signed with Atlanta last week, Wilson now clearly is the receiver who will be expected to push the team's Big Three for playing time, and the second-year speedster said in an interview with <I>SF Illustrated</I> that he's up to the challenge.</P>

"I've got to get on the field," Wilson said. "They want me to play. I want to play. That's the bottom line."

Wilson was impressive during spring minicamps, showing the kind of speed, hands and development at receiver that the team was hoping for after he had a rather nonproductive rookie season.

Wilson still enters training camp as the team's No. 4 receiver behind Terrell Owens, J.J. Stokes and Tai Streets, but now he's at a point where he may push the latter two for playing time in multi-receiver sets.

"I know that T.O., J.J., Tai Streets - those guys are going to be here," Wilson said. "I mean, healthy, those guys are going to play. But that don't stop me from going in every once in a while. If they can put in a couple of wrinkles for Cedrick Wilson to make some plays for the team, I would like to help."

And there's no doubt in the confident Wilson's mind that now, after two springs with the team, he is ready to help and contribute. Now.

"I think I'm a much better player now," he said. "Knowing what I have to get done, not rushing myself, I know what to do. I'm comfortable now. That's the biggest thing with a rookie and a second-year guy. That second-year guy knows what he has to get done and a rookie is trying to learn what he has to get done, and he can't really exploit his talents. So right now, I'm able to exploit my talents. I'm able to get open. I'm able to see a zone, or know that it's man, or know that it's cloud (coverage) - I'm able to see those little things and convert my routes. This past year, I wasn't able to do those things and that's probably why I looked a little bit off. But this year, I know what I've got to get done.

"I think I can be the player I was in college now. I think I can be that go-to guy. I think that about myself, and I try to go out and work as hard as I can to be that person. Just in case a Terrell, or a J.J., or a Tai goes down, I have to step up and be that guy, and I think I can.

As Wilson progressed rapidly during the spring, he did it amid a whirlwind of speculation that the Niners might sign Jackson or other veteran receivers who could come in and push for major playing time and perhaps even a starting role - and slide Wilson farther down the depth chart. Wilson's reaction? "You can't ever tell in this business. Whoever comes here, they still have to beat me out. That's basically how I look at it."

Coach Steve Mariucci said on Friday that Wilson won't have to worry about that for the time being. "We're set for camp," he said. "But it's possible the roster will change a little bit here and there in camp."

That will be primarily with tryout players battling for berths at the bottom of the training camp roster, leaving Wilson with a chance to show he is ready to produce as a receiver and also, possibly, as a kick returner this season.

"I'm really pushing at the kick return and punt return game and that will probably be my biggest contribution to the team this year," Wilson said. "But it's my job to catch the football. It's my job to make plays, and I do want to be on the field. Any opportunity the coaches give me, I just have to make the best of it. Last preseason, I thought I had a great opportunity with J.J. and Tai being down and I didn't make the best of it. And this year I just don't want to make that mistake. So I'm just going to continue to work as hard as I can, so I can see the field. I've got to see the field this year."


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