The Bucs secondary will look a little different Sunday in San Diego as it tries to contain the Chargers’ Phillip Rivers-powered passing attack.
After 11 straight games with Chris Conte and Bradley McDougald starting at both safety positions, the former will not be available against San Diego.
Bucs S Major Wright – Photo by: Getty Images
As reported by ESPN’s Adam Caplan at 1:32 p.m. Wednesday, Conte’s suffered a chest injury late in the fourth quarter last weekend against the Seattle Seahawks. Conte was not seen at practice Wednesday afternoon and Tampa Bay made the Tuesday roster move of signing former Buccaneer Major Wright.
“Major’s been here one day but there’s some advantage to bringing back veterans that are familiar with the system,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said after practice Wednesday. “At this point in the year … it’s hard to bring in a guy cold off the street and start from scratch unless he has some kind of a history with somebody terminology-wise. Major not only was here but he was with [secondary coach Jon Hoke] back in his Chicago days. With the situation with Chris Conte that we’re in right now, it’s just good timing for Major to come back.”
Wright, a seven-year veteran, spent the past two seasons with the Bucs before getting released in August and remaining a free agent throughout the first 12 weeks of the regular season. He was in the locker room Wednesday and said it was hard to be without a team for so long but that he’s ready to get back to work in pewter and red.
“Man, those streets are cold,” Wright said, who said he’s bounced between the Tampa area and his native south Florida during his time away from the league. “It’s very frustrating. You’re waiting on a call, I’m texting my agent, like, ‘What have you heard? What’s up?’ I’ve got a lot of ball left in me and it just hurt to see every week go by and you didn’t get that call. It’s stressful.”
Staying positive while waiting for a new football home has its difficult moments, Wright said, but he made sure he did all he could to stay football-ready.
“It’s very hard because you don’t know when that call’s going to come,” he said. “I’ve got to stay in shape. When I do get that call I have to be in perfect shape. You don’t want to be out there not in shape and you miss your opportunity.”
Replacing the Bucs’ second-leading tackler this year will be left to Wright and veteran backup Keith Tandy. Conte has recorded 65 tackles and is tied with McDougald and cornerback Brent Grimes for the team lead with two interceptions.
Bucs S Keith Tandy – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Wright played a backup role last season, appearing in nine games and starting two. Nineteen of his 25 tackles came during a four-game stretch from Weeks 13-16.
Tandy’s played 74 total defensive snaps this season and the Bucs’ other active-roster safety, rookie Ryan Smith, has played only on special teams and functions as Tampa Bay’s primary kick returner.
Whether it’s Tandy or Wright getting the majority of the snaps against the Chargers, Koetter said he’s confident both defensive backs can get the job done.
“I’ve got confidence in every guy out there,” Koetter said. “If they’re up on Sunday, we’ve got confidence or they wouldn’t be out there. Many times it’s just that a guy hasn’t got his opportunity for one reason or another. If you folks could see the leadership that Keith puts forth on our special teams unit, that’s usually a pretty good precursor to how they’re going to fit in on defense. I’ve found that good football players are good football players. If Keith’s the guy that we call on, then I expect he’ll do fine.”