Many felt that Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright would be wearing another team's uniform in 2013 after his four-game suspension for Adderall. But Wright and the Bucs worked out a one-year restructured deal and Wright is eager to prove his worth in 2013.
Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright was part of the "Big Three" signing during the 2012 free agent period. Along with Pro Bowl wide receiver Vincent Jackson and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, the former Detroit Lion and Cleveland Brown was signed to a pricey, five-year, $37.5-million deal and big things were expected. Unfortunately for Tampa Bay – and Wright – things couldn’t have gone more wrong.
Diagnosed with an undisclosed medical condition soon after signing, Wright was absent during a good deal of the offseason workouts last spring. Although medication was able to correct the issue, things went from bad to worse late in the season, as Wright found himself on the wrong side of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s disciplinary sword and was suspended four games after testing positive for the banned substance Adderall. Even prior to the suspension Wright – like the entire secondary – struggled in coverage, and the Buccaneers finished the 2012 season last in the NFL in pass defense, surrendering close to 300 yards per game through the air.
Most expected Wright to be released as soon as the season was over, but after meeting with head coach Greg Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik, Wright was given another chance with the organization, albeit at a much reduced salary. After restructuring, Wright is on a one-year, $1.5-million deal with the Buccaneers.
During the bleak period between the season ending and renegotiating his salary, Wright went through some anxious moments.
“Of course there was concern,” Wright said. “There was a lot of concern, but we handled the business side and I am just happy to be out here as a player. I take it as I can contribute to the team. This is definitely a place that I am happy to be dealing with Coach and the Glazers and Mark Dominik – that it obviously is a vote of confidence for them to give me an opportunity to stay here and continue my playing career. I am grateful for that. I am going to come out here and do my best at all times.”
On Wednesday, after the Buccaneers' organized team activity practice had wrapped up, Wright seemed very confident in his role with the team in 2013.
“As long as I am healthy and out here there is no way not to contribute on this team,” Wright said. “It is just the type of competitor that I am. That is just how I am in general. I have been playing this game for six years and I have been a starter for six years. That says something about the person and player I am and where my mind state is at all times. I do not see it being any different.”
Schiano, who although spoke positively of Wright on Wednesday, wasn’t ready to hand him the starting job just yet.
“Well, he is doing some good things,” Schiano said. “Again, it is all about the competition, right? And we will not know until we get going. There are some guys that finish the year that they think it is their position and Eric (Wright) thinks it is his position. We will see. I am not sure exactly how everything will turn out. Nor do I care. I like the guys that are right now competing and that is the most important thing. We will let it all play out.”
With the addition of Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis and Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson, Wright and the Buccaneers feel like their secondary is much improved. But Wright, like every member of the secondary PewterReport.com has spoken to recently, said he would miss not having Ronde Barber line up next to him on the field.
“Obviously losing a guy like Ronde it hurts,” Wright said. “That is one of my favorite cornerbacks ever and to not have him around is going to hurt a little bit, but we've got to keep this thing moving. Bringing in Revis and Dashon and some of them young guys to come in and help is going to go well for us in the next season.”
Despite a pedestrian initial season in Tampa Bay statistically (10 games, 37 tackles, seven pass breakups and one INT), Wright has plenty of confidence. That is something cornerbacks need to have to be successful in the NFL.
“I feel like I am a pretty exceptional player and the world has yet to see that in its entirety,” Wright said. “So I have to just go out there and remain consistent and do whatever I can to help this team win. All the other things that you will want as an individual player comes from a winning football team. Always.”
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