Wilson turns page on 'oddball' debut

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- With the New York Giants enjoying a rare Sunday off during the regular season, David Wilson sneaked into the team's indoor practice facility this past weekend.

He had some dues to pay for the first fumble of his pro career. Still upset over coughing up his second carry as a Giant against Dallas, Wilson took two footballs and tucked one under each arm.

He ran 100 yards but dropped to the turf every 5 yards. And then he had to get back up with the footballs still tucked under his arms.

It was a punishment for fumbling enforced by Cranston Rodgers, Wilson's running backs coach at George Washington High School in Danville, Va.

"I never had to do it," Wilson said of his time in high school. "We called it 'OB' for oddball, a name for being the oddball [who] got in trouble in school."

This Sunday against Tampa Bay, Wilson hopes to go from being the odd man out to the offensive spark the Giants envisioned when they drafted him in the first round.

Wilson, though, won't be the only rookie running back with all eyes on him. While Wilson is hoping to redeem himself after being benched by Tom Coughlin, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin will be on the opposite side trying to run over the Giants' defense.

The Giants need to stop Martin and the Tampa running game after allowing DeMarco Murray to rush for 131 yards last week. And Wilson hopes to ignite a struggling Giants rushing attack that managed just 82 yards -- 33 of which came on a single carry -- against Dallas.

The two rookie backs were drafted back to back at the end of the first round after Tampa Bay traded up to the 31st spot to take Martin, fearing the Giants could take the Boise State back. Big Blue then grabbed Wilson with the 32nd pick.

But despite being selected next to one another, the two backs have "different styles," according to Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride.

"David has great explosion and great speed," Gilbride said. "Doug Martin looked more, what's the word I want to say, versatile, ready to do all aspects, pass protection, pass catching as well as running.

"What [Boise State] did offensively and what Virginia Tech asked of David are two completely different things," Gilbride added. "In some respects, [Martin] is a little further along in those aspects at playing the position."

The two running backs will inevitably be compared to one another for years to come.

"Everybody wants to see what we're going to do," Wilson said. "Being a rookie and being a running back and getting playing time, everybody's anticipating and wanting to see what we can do."

Their situations, though, are vastly different. Martin has become the feature back for Greg Schiano. During Tampa's 16-10 win over Carolina this past Sunday, Martin rushed for 95 yards on 24 carries and had four catches for 23 yards.

Wilson's debut ended almost as soon as it started with his fumble in Dallas territory on his second pro carry as Ahmad Bradshaw's backup in the first quarter.

Wilson was visibly upset at himself on the sideline immediately after and was consoled by Hakeem Nicks and Osi Umenyiora. His only action after that came on kickoff returns.

The Giants had been drilling into his head to protect the football ever since he was drafted. At Virginia Tech, Wilson fumbled the ball seven times in 2011.

"It was something that we were worried about," Gilbride said. "We've tried to do everything we can to make him cognizant of how important it is that he focus on that aspect. [But] as much as you say it, sometimes it takes an experience like that before you get hit over the head.

"Hopefully he'll respond the way we expect him to," Gilbride added.

After coughing it up on a hit by Sean Lee, Wilson recited Coughlin's mantra for all running backs over and over again.

"Whatever I do, no matter what, 'high and tight,'" Wilson said.

Even in his apartment, he would sometimes hold a football high and tight while watching TV. Wilson's response to the first bit of adversity in his career has impressed Coughlin enough to say that the rookie is "a little out of the doghouse."

After Coughlin said that Wednesday, Wilson was bombarded with more questions about his fumble by reporters in the Giants' locker room.

After several minutes, Wilson was finally asked questions about facing Tampa Bay. But then, he was asked another question about his fumble.

To his credit, the rookie's upbeat personality never changed. He politely answered questions and even managed to sarcastically crack a joke at his own expense.

"I think this is the most historic fumble in, like, football [history]," Wilson said with a smile on his face. "I think this one might go down in history, the way it's being carried over."

Wilson can't rewrite how his first pro game went. That's in the books. But he can do something about his future starting Sunday if given the opportunity to carry the football.

"Two carries, 4 yards and that was it," Wilson said of his debut. "And a fumble. That was my first game. That will be something I hope to look back at and kinda laugh like, 'Man, that was my first game.'"