Chris Wilson returns to his CFL roots to give Lions a boost
Defensive end jumps gun on NFL cuts to rejoin club that gave him his pro start
Lions defensive end Chris Wilson, right, is greeted by head coach Mike Benevides at the team’s practice facility in Surrey on Tuesday Sept. 10, 2013. Wilson returns to the CFL after playing several years in the NFL with the Washington Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst, PNG
It’s no exaggeration to say the B.C. Lions couldn’t wait for the traditional airlift of National Football League cuts to commence two weeks from now.
They needed help, and they needed it now, and they went back to the past to get it.
Defensive end Chris Wilson, who played five seasons in the NFL over a six-year span after helping the Lions to their 2006 Grey Cup victory, returned Tuesday to the place that gave him his start as a professional football player.
That came a day after the club announced it had re-acquired quarterback Buck Pierce from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Both players began their pro careers with the Lions in 2005.
“It feels rejuvenating. Beautiful city, great country, won the Grey Cup last time I was here,” Wilson said Tuesday at the Lions’ training complex. “My wife and I got married here. So I have a lot of great memories.”
“When you have a guy like Chris Wilson who’s had a career for himself in the NFL, who’s a pensioned player, and makes a call and says, ‘I want to be part of that family again’ -- that speaks volumes,” said Lions head coach Mike Benevides. “He doesn’t have to be here.”
“I learned a great deal (in the NFL), and I’m excited about bringing that here,” said Wilson, who played 36 games over his two seasons with the Lions in 2005 and ’06, recording 70 tackles and nine quarterback sacks.
He played four seasons without missing a game with the Washington Redskins from 2007 through 2010, but sat out the 2011 campaign when he was released at the end of training camp by the Philadelphia Eagles.
He returned to the Redskins last year, mostly as a special teams player and defensive reserve, but was not re-signed this season.
“I was a free agent, I didn’t get picked up, and I had a window I gave myself to Week 1, and when it didn’t come ... you know, I had been interning with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and ready to do a gig there,” he said.
“I basically was thinking I got a family now, three kids, and didn’t have that when I was here the first time, so I was just kind of at a fork in the road when I was thinking, “What should I do?’ And me and my wife both agreed that we should just exhaust ourselves career-wise, and if I was going to come back to Canada, I had no better place to come than the organization that gave me my very first opportunity to play professional football.”
The 31-year-old should give the Lions a little extra speed -- and attitude -- on the pass rush.
“The biggest thing right now is (Wilson) is spending time with our defensive line coach making sure he gets acclimated to the playbook,” Benevides said. “We’ll see how he is on the field this week, and soon as I can, I’ll try to get him in. “We’re going to carry six defensive lineman on our roster, and if he can give us better edge presence and he can keep our guys fresh, great, because I know two things about Chris: he’s got an unbelievable motor, and his mouth doesn’t stop. He brings an attitude to the table.”
Wilson, at 6-foot-4 and 248 pounds, says conditioning shouldn’t be a factor.
“Well, in the CFL, a guy’s always sliding in and out,” he said. “So I don’t really know the situation in full, but without even having to look at it, I see myself being a vicious, very tenacious pass rusher for the team, just like I was last time I was here.
“I expect to step right into that role. I’m a veteran this time. I’ll bring a lot of energy, but a lot of mature energy.”
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