Eugene Wilson's 2005 season ended very differently from his first two years in the NFL. In some ways the differences were good. In others they were very disappointing.
Wilson had the good fortune to win the Super Bowl in his first two NFL seasons, something very few people can claim. But in winning those Super Bowls, Wilson suffered severe injuries, a broken arm in Jacksonville in 2004 and a torn groin in Houston as a rookie.
So while his third season ended with a disappointing playoff loss in the divisional round in Denver, the upside is he headed into the longer than usual off-season healthy. That's left him, as the only returning starter in the New England secondary, energized and refocused looking forward to 2006.
"This year I was able to take a break, relax and get away from football," Wilson said of his first professional off-season that didn't involve surgery and rehab. "Then you come back to it after a while and you just feel more energetic, more enthused to get back to work and get back to shape. Whereas when you get hurt and you are just going straight through, it becomes draining."
But while Wilson is in the midst of most stable off-season as a pro, most of the rest of the New England secondary remains up in the air. Rodney Harrison is recovering from a serious knee injury that cost him most of 2005, veterans Tyrone Poole and Duane Starks were released, and the Patriots once again have defensive backs fighting for roster spots.
"We go through this every year," Wilson said. "We come into training camp with a whole bunch of corners and safeties and as the season goes on we are bringing guys in (off the street). You'd never think of that at the beginning of the season. Right now, we are feeling real good about the guys that we have. But you never know what could happen."
Based on rumors and confirmed discussions between free agent Ty Law and Patriots coach Bill Belichick, one thing that could happen is the Pro Bowl cornerback's return to New England. While still a long shot, it's a return Wilson would welcome with open arms.
"Of course. Ty is a great player," Wilson said. "He was a great teammate and player for us. It'd be great to have him back."