The Chiefs made their way off the practice field and headed for the ice bath after the final work out at Missouri Western before their preseason opener against the Seahawks on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Trailing the group was wide receiver Albert Wilson, who, after taking extra reps, remained to speak to a reporter then accommodated every autograph request for the few remaining fans.
Wilson is starting his third NFL season, and he treats every day in a jersey as if it’s his first, hustling out plays, sweating out injuries, availing himself to fans.
That’s why more than his calf was hurting when Wilson recently missed a handful of practices.
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“It was really tough,” Wilson said. “Especially because it’s early in the season and you’re starting to get back into football conditioning and your team is starting to build as a unit.
“For you to miss some days and not be with the guys on the field and not being part of the goal hurts inside. But it also makes you want to work harder when you get back.”
Wilson, who joined the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent from Georgia State, said his injury occurred because he didn’t remain hydrated, causing a calf strain when the cool weather of the camp’s early days turned warm.
But he’s been back on track this week as he seeks to continue his upward mobility.
As a rookie Wilson contributed 16 receptions and a 16.3-yard per catch average, and he became a bigger target last season. Wilson logged 35 receptions and his first two regular-season touchdowns, starting 12 games.
He added seven more receptions in the playoffs, including a five-catch game against the Patriots, which included the Chiefs’ first touchdown on a 10-yard reception from Alex Smith.
The wide receiver position has been upgraded with the addition of free agent Rod Streater and rookies Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson joining returners Jeremy Maclin, Chris Conley and Wilson among others. Missing practice time gave others an opportunity to step up, and the group has been impressive during camp.
But Wilson was running with the starters before the injury and he was back on the first team when he returned.
“We’ve done a great job bringing in good players to create competition,” Wilson said. “You’re either going to go up and stay there or go down. For me to keep running with the ones, it’s allowing me to get better.”
Wilson, figures to get more time at slot this season, which would be something of a new look as a pro. A year ago, Wilson ran about 11 percent of his routes from the slot.
But that’s how Wilson was mostly used in college, lining up outside in two-wide receiver sets and at slot when a third wide receiver joined the huddle.
“It’s back to how I was playing in college for four years,” Wilson said. “I’m very comfortable with that role. Whatever’s best for this offense I’m down for it.”