Wilson suffered the injury in a Week 13 loss to the Chargers and was carted off the field, but he returned four weeks later and helped the Bengals clinch the AFC North title in a win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
After the game, Wilson said there was a chance he might need surgery. The team doctor had told him it was a “high probability” when he initially injured it and Wilson admitted he thought his season might be done. However, he saw enough improvement to return and proved instrumental in the Bengals’ run to the Super Bowl.
“Sometimes it felt fine and then there were times a certain hit would not make it feel so good,” Wilson said. “It just depended on the specific play, honestly. I don’t know the extent of it. I never take a look at the MRI nor do I know how to read an MRI, but I know the tear was getting bigger as the season progressed. I didn’t necessarily need to get it fixed. It was just way smarter to get it fixed long-term.”
The surgery helped his range of motion, as he couldn’t lift his arm all the way like he now can.
Despite any limitations in movement, Wilson made 39 tackles (four for loss) in the playoffs and had an interception on the final defensive play of the team’s 19-16 win at Tennessee in the divisional round before Evan McPherson won the game on a last-second field goal.
One disappointing postseason play stands out more for Wilson, though. On third-and-8 with less than two minutes left and the Bengals clinging to a 20-16 lead in the Super Bowl, Wilson was called for pass interference after preventing Cooper Kupp from catching the go-ahead score.
Replays show a potential false start by the Rams, and Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo has defended Wilson’s play as exactly what he would instruct a linebacker to do in that situation.
“I guess the only other thing I could have done is not touch him, but it’s also a physical game and you have to be able to put your hands on people within that five-yard zone,” Wilson said.
The Rams had a touchdown pass nullified on the next snap because of offsetting penalties, Eli Apple was penalized for defensive pass interference on the next one and two plays later, Kupp caught the game-winning touchdown.
Wilson said he had no desire to re-watch the game because his focus was just on getting his shoulder fixed. He saw enough clips from it on social media, especially his pass interference flag.
“There’s nothing I could do about it,” Wilson said. “I have people ask me all the time, ‘how did you respond to that?’ It’s like, it’s a thing that’s out of your control. You can’t do anything about it. That’s just the mentality. You have to go in the next play and try to get a stop and we failed to do so.”
The Wyoming native said he was asked about the play “pretty often” back home this offseason. He smiled at the recollection of little kids coming up to him to ask why he didn’t challenge the play, as though that was an option.
“Everyone is saying how they false started, but you have to put yourself in the referees’ shoes,” Wilson said. “It’s not that easy. They’re making a split-second decision in the biggest game on the world stage. It’s tough either way.”
The Bengals have now turned the page on 2022, and Wilson said the players came back ready to work toward another deep run this season. He was excited about the additions brought into the defense through the draft, and he looks forward to seeing how the speed of defensive backs Dax Hill, Cam Taylor-Britt and Tycen Anderson helps make the Bengals defense one of the fasted in the league.
“It’s very exciting,” Wilson said. “I saw some of those guys’ 40s and it’s like lightening quick. Once they get up to speed with the mental aspect of the game, they can use that speed that they have and hopefully we’re flying around on Sundays making plays.”