"IT'S NOT THE SIZE OF THE DOG THAT BITES, BUT THE BITE OF THE DOG THAT COUNTS "
Three time Pro Bowl linebacker Al Wilson commented after practice this week, "I'll never forget when I first came into the league, they kept telling meI was too small, not fast enough, not good enough to make it in the NFL. It just made me more determined than ever to prove them wrong. It kept going through my mind, it still goes through my mind sometimes."
Wilson has developed a reputation for his hard-hitting style and relentless pursuit of ball-carriers. He's rapidly emerged as one of the best linebackers in the NFL during his five seasons in Denver. Voted a defensive captain by his teammates in 2003, Wilson started all 16 games at middle linebacker and led the team in tackles for the second consecutive season 128 (99 solo) including one sack. He recorded double figure tackles in six games and seven pass deflections, the highest since Randy Gradishar posted 224 in 1983. Hardly the stats of someone "not good enough."
Wilson burst on the scene as a rookie in 1999, assuming a starting role in week three when John Mobley was placed on injured reserve, and finished the season third in tackles. Wilson has played in 79 games (73 starts). Before joining the Broncos he helped lead the Tennessee "Vols" to a 13-0 record and a National Championship as a senior.
Covering the Broncos training camp for Broncos Update this summer, I remembered Wilson's determination and quiet confidence in his early days as I stood and watched Quentin Griffin. Defying the same type of prognostication, "too small, not good enough, he won't survive the number of hits running backs have to take in the NFL." But his quickness, good-hands and pass catching ability were evident last season and during training camp.
Time and again the powerfully built Griffin would pop-up after tackles which slowed and injured other players. He demonstrated that same quietbtenaciousness I had seen in Wilson, choosing to answer critics with his on-field performance.
Suffering three fumbles in three games certainly hasn't helped Griffin's confidence. He'd hoped to reverse his previous record today against the Chargers. The media pummeled him in the locker room following the game with questions about his confidence. He spoke quietly as always saying, "I'll just have to watch the film. At least let me enjoy our win a little bit."
Coach Shanahan addressed questions regarding Quentin saying, "we'll do the same things with Quentin in practice we always do. It looks like the fumbles that he had (weren't the same). One of the fumbles was a bad quarterback exchange, like we talked about before. This last one was pretty similar to what I thought happened on the goal line in Kansas City. He relaxed a little bit after he caught the ball and all of a sudden it got knocked out. Whether he's catching a pass or carrying the ball into the end zone, he's got to secure the ball.
I've no doubt Griffin will accomplish his goals despite the set-backs and slow start.
On another note. Linebacker Al Wilson continued his march to another Pro Bowl with 5 tackles and 2 assists before twisting his ankle. No comment was made by the Broncos' regarding the seriousness of the injury or how long the veteran might be side-lined.
Not Good Enough
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