FLAGSTAFF – Adrian Wilson, torn right biceps tendon and all, looked in good spirits Monday as he talked to teammates during the morning walkthrough.
The veteran safety had reason to try and be optimistic. As bad as his injury might have been, Wilson will try and play through it after rehabilitation.
"I think I've got two options," Wilson said after the afternoon practice. "I can either get busy living, or get busy dying."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said while the course of the next few weeks will ultimately determine Wilson's availability, "we do expect for him to play for us this season.
"(When) will be determined on how his body responds to rehab. Whether that is one week, two weeks, three weeks, I don't know."
Rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson told reporters Wilson was telling teammates he would be back by the season opener against Carolina. That's a timeline that Whisenhunt would not commit to, repeatedly emphasizing that until Wilson finds out how his body reacts to the rehab, it was impossible to know exactly when Wilson could return.
"I would love to be out there the first (regular-season) game," Wilson said. "That'd be great. I've got a roster bonus coming up, you know. I got things that depend on that. ... I think I have a pretty good chance of maybe playing (the first game). Maybe not. I just don't want to put myself in a spot where something goes wrong."
In the meantime, third-year safety Rashad Johnson will slide into Wilson's spot in the lineup.
"It may not be the same way Adrian plays his role, but I think I can have an impact," Johnson said.
"We know the impact Adrian has on the game and on this team. He is a leader, so definitely it is leadership lost. But that's the game. That's how young guys get the opportunity to make names for themselves and show their talents."
Whisenhunt echoed the thought, pointing out that key injuries usually happen every year. Teams must adapt, and Johnson, Whisenhunt said, has "shown well" in camp. Johnson, who came into the league as a free safety, said he has been learning both safety spots and has no problem playing in the strong safety role.
Johnson also said he put on muscle in the offseason and is in the best shape of his career.
Long-term the hope is that Wilson, who hurt himself trying to grab running back Beanie Wells early in Saturday's practice, comes back. Linebacker Joey Porter played late last season with a torn triceps muscle. And former Cards linebacker Rob Fredrickson once played through a torn biceps. On the other side, linebacker Chike Okeafor briefly tried to rehab after tearing a left biceps muscle in the first 2007 preseason game, and was eventually placed on injured reserve when the regular season started.
The key, Whisenhunt said, is that there is no predictor. Each player is different. "I have learned in this business, you can rule someone out or say he is going to play. Everyone responds differently."
The Cardinals did add veteran safety Matt Ware Monday (waiving-injured tackle Brad Thorson), although Whisenhunt said that move was going to be made regardless of Wilson's injury after a player (The Arizona Republic reported it was safety Andrew Rich) decided he didn't want to play anymore.
Wilson's injury isn't the only one for a defensive back the Cards are dealing with, either. Cornerback Michael Adams underwent arthroscopy to repair a slightly torn meniscus in his knee. The Cards are hopeful Adams isn't out more than a couple weeks, although Whisenhunt cautioned he didn't want anyone rushing back, like Wells did last season after his own arthroscopic procedure.
Injuries happen, and "this business is all about the next guy being able to step in and play, Whisenhunt said, quickly saying that with Wilson's injury doesn't change the defense.
When Wilson comes back to play in that defense, well, that becomes a waiting game.
"It's not like the regular season where I am trying to dodge the injury questions," Whisenhunt said. "It's really something where at this point, we don't know."