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Wilson building chemistry with new teammates in Oakland

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A number of Gibril Wilson's new teammates in Oakland have already come up to ask him about what it's like to be a member of a Super Bowl champion.

Height: 6-0

Weight: 209

Experience: 5

College: Tennessee

That's probably because it's been a struggle for the Raiders to win any game in recent years, much less the ultimate prize in football. Wilson brings a winning pedigree and a physical nature at safety that has been lacking in Oakland.

"I just tell them that it's truly the greatest feeling ever to actually win and be on top," Wilson said Thursday. "There's no better feeling. I'm sharing that with them, I'll bring my ring when I get it and we'll go from there."

The Raiders have a long way to go to get to the level Wilson and his New York Giants teammates achieved last season. Oakland has won just 19 games the past five seasons, the fewest in the NFL, and has tasted almost no success since winning the AFC championship in the 2002 season.

The addition of Wilson was part of an offseason overhaul by the Raiders. The team also traded for former Pro Bowl cornerback DeAngelo Hall, signed former Pro Bowl receiver Javon Walker and drafted game-breaking running back Darren McFadden with the fourth overall pick, among other big moves.

Wilson signed a $39 million, six-year contract with Oakland that included about $16 million in guaranteed money. The Raiders finalized the deal on the first day of the free agency period, showing the importance they placed on getting a safety who is physical to play close to the line of scrimmage to stop the run.

"What I bring is my physical presence being in the box," Wilson said. "Whenever I think of the Raiders I think about a physical, physical football team. That's what I'm going to do my best to bring back."

The Raiders allowed a league-worst 4.8 yards per carry last season, often missing tackles against running backs in the open field. Oakland allowed 18 runs of 20 or more yards last season, tied with Denver for most in the NFL and twice as many as the Giants gave up in 2007.

Wilson's 284 solo tackles since entering the NFL in 2004 are the most of any safety during that span. The San Jose native had 70 tackles and a career-high four interceptions in 13 games for the New York Giants last season.

"He's an animal out there," safety Michael Huff said. "We always knew he could tackle, he was big. But I didn't know he could cover as well as he can. So I think that's going to help our defense out, help us in coverage, we can change it up a little bit."

Wilson was a key member of the defense that shut down the New England Patriots in New York's 17-14 victory and has the ability to play either free or strong safety.

Wilson and Huff have each spent time at both spots in practice so far, after Huff was primarily a strong safety his first two seasons. Huff appears more suited to play free safety, where he doesn't have to contend with blocks with 300-pound linemen.

But coach Lane Kiffin likes the flexibility he has with two players who have experience playing both positions.

"I like where we're at with them and putting them in a number of positions and some that Michael's never been in here over his two years here," Kiffin said. "It'll be fun to see how that unfolds."

Huff is very happy about the addition of Wilson. Huff said he wore down by about the 10th game of the season because he had to play against bigger opponents each week. Wilson likes what he sees in Huff, an athletic safety with speed and coverage skills.

They are taking the time in the offseason to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses so they will mesh perfectly once the season begins.

"I think me and Huff are going to complement each other very, very nicely," Wilson said. "There's not a play that we shouldn't talk before the actual snap of the ball. Me and him, we need to be on the same page. We need to know what each other is thinking and disguising and everything and not giving away defenses and things like that. I think me and Huff will be great together."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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