Wilson plays through pain for home playoff

By FRANK SCHWAB THE GAZETTE Updated: January 5, 2006 at 12:00 am • Published: January 5, 2006
ENGLEWOOD - Al Wilson said his toughest injuries were probably the dislocated shoulder and separated shoulder he had simultaneously in 2000. Playing middle linebacker with pain running through both shoulders wasn’t fun, but he missed only one game.
The pinched nerve Wilson had in his neck two seasons ago wasn’t enjoyable either. But he played in every Denver Broncos game, no matter the shock that went through his arm and down his side when he made a tackle. When Wilson broke his right thumb Dec. 24, he had no doubt he would suit up for Denver’s first playoff game, which will be Jan. 14. Wilson had surgery on the thumb two days after breaking it. “About six weeks it takes to really heal up,” Wilson said. “I don’t have six weeks.” Wilson temporarily got the cast off Wednesday to get the stitches out. But he said the cast was going back on before he left headquarters and he would wear it during the playoffs. Wilson said playing through the injury might set the tone for the rest of the team. “I would hope so,” Wilson said. “But any guy on this team would do what I’m doing, so it’s not like I’m doing anything special. This is what we get paid for.” He has waited too long to get a playoff game at Invesco Field at Mile High to miss it because of a broken thumb. Wilson was a first-round draft pick in 1999, coming to a team that had won two straight Super Bowls. But Denver started 0-4 in his rookie season, and Wilson has had to wait until his seventh season for a home playoff game. “No amount of words can express how fired up and how ready I am to play this game,” Wilson said. “Not just for myself and my teammates, but for the fans in the city of Denver, the whole state of Colorado, actually.” Wilson’s play is one of the reasons Denver is 13-3 and earned a first-round bye. Wilson admittedly didn’t have great numbers. He had 90 tackles, which ranked second on the team behind outside linebacker Ian Gold. Wilson had more than 90 tackles each season from 2001 to 2003. But Wilson said this season has been his most enjoyable and his finest. “As far as helping this team and helping the guys around me and make them better and get us going in the right direction, I definitely think it’s been my best season,” he said. Linebacker Keith Burns, who has been with the Broncos for all but one of Wilson’s seven seasons, agreed that Wilson has improved. Wilson was named to the Pro Bowl, which he has been to three times, but each time as an injury replacement. “That’s just him growing as a professional,” Burns said. “We sit back and talk about the things he used to do in games and the things he does now, as far as the way he reacts to the ball, the way he reads plays now and the way he analyzes plays.” Odds and ends Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak will interview with two teams for a head coaching job this week, coach Mike Shanahan said, and other interested teams with openings might interview Kubiak once the Broncos are finished in the playoffs. Houston received permission to interview Kubiak this week and the Denver Post reported Detroit was the second team to contact the Broncos. Shanahan wouldn’t detail which teams have contacted Denver. . . . Cornerback Darrent Williams, who missed Denver’s past three games with a groin injury, practiced Wednesday. He said he felt completely healthy and could have played if the Broncos had a game. “I didn’t feel any pain and I did pretty much everything,” Williams said. “I ran full speed.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or fschwab@gazette.com
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