Safety Adrian Wilson has become the heart and soul of the Cardinals defense over the last decade.
But even the five-time Pro Bowler is not immune to a demotion now and again.
Wilson, who has 34 tackles and an interception on the season, did not start in the Cardinals’ 23-19 loss to Atlanta Falcons.
The 11-year veteran declined to comment after the game, saying little more than that the decision was not his to make.
Head coach Ken Whisenhunt later said the decision was made to improve pass coverage — an area Wilson hasn’t been extremely effective in this season — and that overall he was pleased with the results (season-high five interceptions) against the Falcons.
Friday, defensive coordinator Ray Horton said the move was done for more reasons than just schematic purposes.
“Hopefully the message that’s being sent to everybody is that’s important to do your job and do your job well,” Horton said. “When you’re in there it’s not a right, it’s a privilege to be in there and play defense.”
Despite the benching of his star safety to begin last Sunday’s contest, Horton doesn’t expect Wilson’s role to change at all.
“We’re just trying to tweak some things and get some guys some opportunities,” said Horton. “So where does [Wilson] fit in? Right where he’s been. He’s one of the leaders of our team.”
Rashad Johnson, who started in place of Wilson, made the most of his opportunities in Atlanta. The fourth-year safety intercepted Matt Ryan’s first pass of the game, which set up the Cardinals’ lone touchdown.
Wilson’s consecutive start streak was actually snapped earlier this season, when injuries to his groin and ankle kept him from playing in Arizona’s Week 3 win over Philadelphia.