Eugene Wilson was primarily a safety in New England but he'll play cornerback against his former teammates on Sunday night
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' preseason home opener against the New England Patriots Sunday night should be an interesting matchup for a number of reasons.
No, this preseason tilt that won't count in the standings. Still, the chance to square off against the defending AFC champions and a record-setting club that just missed going 19-0 last season will be a good test for the Buccaneers.
For cornerback Eugene Wilson, the chance to line up against such a quality opponent holds a little bit more meaning. That's because the versatile sixth-year veteran spent his first five seasons in the league with the Patriots, with much of his time there as a starter at safety.
"Yeah, I'm looking forward to it," Wilson admitted with a slight grin after practice Friday. "I haven't seen those guys in a while. I have quite a few friends on the team over there still and it'll be a good battle, a good matchup. Obviously New England is a great team and we're just looking forward to it."
In the same breath, Wilson downplayed the matchup with his former mates. He said he will be focused more on mastering his new playbook as the regular season nears, as opposed to any trash talking with his former teammates.
"I'm looking forward to seeing them and seeing how they come out," Wilson said. "I know they've got some new players and whatnot, so I'll see a few of my friends and then it's time to get down to business and get the game going."
Wilson, who joined the Bucs this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, brings a great deal of versatility to his new team. A safety for his entire NFL career, Wilson has been asked to switch to cornerback, a position he hasn't played regularly since college.
"I believe I'm adapting well," Wilson said. "I'm playing a couple different positions and they've really worked me in well and just showed me the ropes. Being behind Ronde [Barber] and watching what he does, he's a great help to me and I'm just looking forward to getting things done."
Wilson also brings plenty of experience. He started 55 of his 62 games as a Patriot and won two Super Bowls. Despite that impressive résumé, Wilson wasn't afraid of a position switch and a new team featuring two starters penciled in at corner – Barber and Phillip Buchanon – as well a talented first-round draft pick at the position. Some of Wilson's new coaches were able to sell him on the team and were some of the biggest reasons he signed with the Bucs.
"It's an up-and-coming team," Wilson said of his new squad in Tampa. "It's not like they're on the bottom of the list. They're an up-and-coming team, and [Head Coach Jon] Gruden, I really felt comfortable with him and I really liked the way that my defensive backs coach, Raheem [Morris], coaches. He's hands-on and any questions you've got, he either has an answer for you or he'll get it for you. All in all, it's just a good situation for me."
New England has long been known for its workmanlike atmosphere, but Wilson said the livelier nature of the Bucs' defensive backs group, led by the liveliest member of all in Morris, is a nice change of pace.
"This is a live, spunky group," Wilson said. "These guys, they bring a lot of energy to the game. Raheem, he's a big part of it. He's a live, energetic coach and guys like that will get you ready to play and wanting to go out there and make a play and be anxious to make a play. That's the difference from where I've been. In New England, it's pretty much get in the playbook, get in the film session, know what you're supposed to do and then just do it, but here there's a lot more energy to it."
With training camp wrapped up and one preseason game in the books, Wilson said he's feeling pretty comfortable with his new digs in Tampa, his new position and his new playbook.
"I've been pretty much just trying to get the defense down," Wilson said. "I feel I've got a good grasp on it now and just getting back to moving as a corner and all that."
But with the contest against the Pats looming, Wilson isn't having any second thoughts about his decision to leave New England for sunny Florida.
"That's all in the past," Wilson said. "I'm a Tampa Bay Buccaneer now and I'm just looking forward to being here and helping this team."