The New York Giants have had some outstanding linebackers wear No. 58. Carl Banks and Antonio Pierce quickly come to mind. Now, former third-round draft pick Gerris Wilkinson is hoping to change his fortune by trading in No. 59 for No. 58. Starting weakside linebacker Michael Boley reportedly paid a nice sum for his old No. 59.
But it's not like the number had been a good omen for Wilkinson, who has battled injuries and inconsistency during his four years in the league. Wilkinson recently told Mike Garafolo of the Star-Ledger that he understands his new jersey comes with some history.
“I know 58 comes with a lot of stuff behind it in terms of A.P. and Carl Banks,” Wilkinson told Garafolo. “And I think people see it as more of a middle-linebacker-type number so I was happy about the change."
It's interesting that Pierce's release may provide Wilkinson an opportunity to reset his career. During the run to the Super Bowl in 2007, I thought the former Georgia Tech star was making a serious move. But the guy just can't stay on the field because of injuries. Now, Wilkinson has a puncher's chance to start at middle linebacker. It's not like Jonathan Goff and rookie Phillip Dillard have a huge advantage on Wilkinson.
"The tough part about it is getting 4 or 5 reps in a practice and [defensive coordinator Perry Fewell] wanting you to be that guy,” Wilkinson said in the Star-Ledger interview. “To be that guy you have to get those reps in and earn the respect of your teammates. That comes with making plays and being on the field, which everybody will have a chance to do once camp starts and once we start playing some games."
At this point, Wilkinson should thank his lucky stars that he's getting any reps with the Giants. He's benefited from the club being thin at the position.