KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Enthusiasm swelled throughout Chiefs wide receiver Albert Wilson’s body in the days leading to Week 14’s contest against the Arizona Cardinals.
The undrafted rookie wide receiver out of Georgia State knew prior to kickoff he would make his first career start after working with the first-team offense during practices.
“It was very exciting,” Wilson said Monday. “I was just really looking forward to it all week. Game day came and I was just comfortable with what was going on, and just played comfortable the whole game.”
Wilson overcame obstacles on his path to a starting opportunity 13 games into the regular season.
The 5-9, 200-pound wide receiver was a healthy inactive for four straight games in Weeks 2-5, and he didn’t record his first career reception until Week 7.
He carved out a role on special teams as the season progressed, filling in for running back Cyrus Gray, who went on season-ending injured reserve with a torn ACL on Nov. 11.
Week 14’s start on offense proved a gratifying moment for the 22-year-old wide receiver.
“It’s what everybody looks forward to coming in,” Wilson said. “Things don’t go your way all the time, but opportunity comes you have to represent well.”
Wilson proved a bright spot against the Cardinals, logging 48 of the Chiefs’ 65 offensive snaps to rank second among wide receivers behind Dwayne Bowe’s 56 snaps.
He had a team-high eight passing targets, and recorded 53 yards receiving on four catches, including a 22-yard reception.
Of course, the move to Wilson came at the expense of seventh-year pro Donnie Avery, who returned to the lineup in Week 13 after missing seven straight games while recovering from a sports hernia procedure in early October.
But coach Andy Reid indicated Monday Avery wasn’t 100 percent healthy.
“I just thought Donnie needed to step back,” Reid said. “He wasn’t quite up to full speed the week before. It wasn’t anything of effort or any of that with Donnie. He is just coming off that injury and I thought he needed a little more time.”
Giving the starting nod to Wilson appeared natural based on recent performances.
“Albert has been playing well,” Reid said. “He did a nice job. He’d like to probably have that last one back, but other than that I thought he had a pretty good game.”
Wilson said Avery and other veterans made sure he was ready, offering advice throughout the week of practice on how to approach Arizona as a starter.
The rookie added he had Avery’s support during the game.
“He was there every time I came off the sideline,” Wilson said, “the first person to tell me how the coverage was, how things were looking.”
Still, Wilson acknowledged he left plays on the field when assessing his overall performance.
Wilson couldn’t pull in a deep pass near the first-down marker with Kansas City facing a second-and-18 early in the fourth quarter at its own 23-yard line. He was targeted on two straight plays in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, but didn’t record a reception.
Lesson learned that Wilson takes to heart as he grows as a professional.
“We were still in the game,” Wilson said, “You just have to learn to let things go. Look back on them and just fix the mistakes. Everybody is going make a mistake once in a while, but you just got to bounce back from them. Your team still needs you how they needed you before that play, so you just got to continue to work hard every minute of the game.”
While it remains to be seen if Wilson will start Sunday’s critical game against the Oakland Raiders, he understands what to expect.
Wilson, who has eight catches for 104 yards on the season, said he’s ready if the Chiefs call his number and his approach won’t alter too much from the experience of Week 14.
“Get with (assistant head coach/wide receiver) coach (David) Culley a lot this week like I did last week, and just prep about what’s the game plan and how we’re going to go facing the Raiders,” Wilson said. “I feel like once you know what you’re doing, everything else will fall in place.”