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This is new territory for the Arizona Cardinals.

Rarely have they had a player as great as Adrian Wilson, and rarely have they had a player as great as Adrian Wilson stick around for more than a decade.

But that's what the safety did, and his 12-year run with the team officially came to an end Friday when the Cardinals announced his release.

It was no doubt a difficult decision, but it's one that many teams have made many times before. Just not the Cardinals, and that's what makes this so tough to swallow.

But it was time.

A five-time Pro Bowler, Wilson is clearly on the downside of his career. He racked up just 54 tackles in 2012 after seeing his role reduced, and it was time for the team to go in a different direction.

"All of us thank Adrian for what he has meant not only to our organization but also to this community," said Cardinals President Michael Bidwill in a press release. "In every franchise, there is a select group of players whose contributions earn them iconic status and for us, Adrian Wilson will always be one of those players."

The Cardinals never would have reached relevancy had it not been for Wilson. The Cardinals never would have won back-to-back NFC West titles had it not been for Wilson. The Cardinals never would have reached Super Bowl XLIII if not for Wilson.

But the NFL is a business, and a harsh one at that. There's little room for sentimentality if the goal is to win, and Bidwill has made it quite clear what his priority is.

So, if that means parting with a fan favorite and franchise stalwart, so be it. This is the NFL, folks, and that's what happens.

"Decisions like this are never easy but it's especially tough with someone like Adrian because he's been such a special player and important part of this organization for the last 12 years," Cardinals GM Steve Keim said in the same press release.

Wilson's intensity was unmatched, his toughness feared and his loyalty unprecedented. He was a Cardinal through and through, and when he hangs up his cleats for good there will no doubt be a place for him in the team's Ring of Honor.

Because there are not enough ways to honor someone who was a five-time team captain and is one of just six players in league history with at least 25 sacks and 25 interceptions.

But that's still a few years down the road.

No doubt Wilson believes he can still play at a high level, and it would not be at all surprising to see him put together a couple more quality seasons. Putting on another team's uniform will be strange for Wilson, just as it will be weird to see him wearing any color other than Cardinal Red.

But that's life in the NFL, and it's something Cardinals fans should hope they have to start getting used to.

Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com

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