With the absence of new cornerback Eric Wright from the majority of the Bucs' OTAs, some have questioned his lack of participation. PewterReport.com has learned that Wright's absence has been due to an undisclosed health issue. Wright is responding to medication and returned to practice on Tuesday for the Bucs' mini-camp.
When Tampa Bay signed free agent cornerback Eric Wright it wasn’t met with quite the fanfare and excitement that the signings of Pro Bowlers Vincent Jackson and Carl Nicks were. But Bucs management had high hopes that Wright would immediately step into a starting role and solidify the defensive back position that – along with the entire defense – struggled mightily in 2011.
Wright’s attendance at the voluntary mini-camps has been spotty, allowing E. J. Biggers to take the majority of reps as one of the two starting cornerbacks along with Aqib Talib. Wright’s absence has become more and more of a topic with the media and fans, who were fearing that the high-paid cornerback had turned into the second coming of Derrick Ward, a free agent running back that was given a lucrative contract in 2009 and rarely attended offseason workouts. Ward reported to camp out of shape and was a bust in Tampa Bay as the team released him after the 2010 season.
But PewterReport.com has learned that the reason Wright has been unable to attend all of the OTAs (organized team activities) is due to an undisclosed health issue. Wright is on medicine that has affected his energy level and limited his participation, but he is showing improvement and participated in Tuesday’s mini-camp practice.
When asked about the fact that he has missed some practice time this spring, Wright said, “I had a few personal issues I had to attend to. That’s typical for the offseason. I have just been in and out a little bit, but most importantly I am here for the mini-camp and I feel good running around.”
Wright did not address any health concern when asked about that specifically.
“I feel pretty good,” Wright said. “I’m out here running around and I’m with the team.”
Wright is apparently responding to his medication and the Bucs are not expecting him to miss any time during training camp. Wright, who was signed to a five-year, $35.5 million deal with the Buccaneers on March 14, has only missed two games in his NFL career. Undoubtedly, Wright is eager to put any health issues behind him and justify the team’s financial investment in him.
“It’s a big responsibility and they obviously did their due diligence and they did their research to make sure they wanted to do and they chose me and I’m appreciative of that,” Wright said. “I’m going to go out there and make sure I work as hard as possible to make them right.”
The sixth-year cornerback was taking part in Tuesday’s mini-camp practice at One Buccaneer Place, but only played sparingly. He did receive some work with the first-team defense during some sessions, but sat out the last two periods of practice and watched Biggers take first-team reps, while Myron Lewis was running with the second string.
While Wright has missed some on-field time this offseason he has been at One Buccaneer Place attending the classroom work and watching film so he won’t fall behind in learning the defense.
“Being here, they do a great job of explaining everything and breaking it down,” Wright said. “It’s very detail-oriented so you get everything you need out of the situation. It’s easy being here learning.
“I think we are pretty sharp. Everybody is out here focused and buying in. Obviously with the new coach you’ve got a little extra time. Everybody has been around and trying to take it in and move in a positive direction.”
Despite missing practices Wright isn’t concerned about whether or not he will start at right cornerback opposite Talib or if he will be relegated to a backup role.
“I think it’s a little early, but at the same time we are all out here just trying to pick up the defense and see where we all mesh and fit,” Wright said. “That type of stuff won’t get defined until later on.”
Wright loves the defense that head coach Greg Schiano and defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan have designed and thinks it suits his skills just fine.
“It’s fun,” Wright said. “It’s a fun defense to play in. It’s a new situation for me. I’m just excited about the opportunity. Everybody is having a good time just trying to pick this thing up and get it going.”
Wright was originally drafted by the Cleveland and spent four seasons with the Browns starting 92 games before signing a one-year free agent deal with the Detroit Lions before the 2011 season. The 5-foot-10, 196-pound Wright has 13 career interceptions and three forced fumbles in his five-year NFL career.
Arguably no position on the Buccaneers roster was as thin in depth and talent when the 2011 season ended as the situation at cornerback. Talib is entering a contract year and has seen his last two seasons end on injured reserve. Complicating matters for the Buccaneers and forcing the team to look towards free agency is the fact that Talib has a grand jury hearing on June 25 for an aggravated assault with a firearm charge that could send him to prison if found guilty.
With Ronde Barber moving to free safety, the Bucs need Wright’s experience to help out the cornerback position as Biggers is in a contract year and former 2010 third-round pick Myron Lewis has been a bust. In addition to holdover Anthony Gaitor, who is serving as the starting nickel corner as a second-year player, the Bucs have added Keith Tandy in the sixth round of the 2012 draft out of West Virginia and also have free agents Derrick Roberson and Leonard Johnson to round out the cornerback position.– Mark Cook contributed to this story
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