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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Don't expect a rush to judgment by the Bucs on CB Wright



Cornerback Eric Wright's arrest on suspicion of felony driving under the influence last week probably didn't sit well with new head coach Greg Schiano.

But that doesn't mean Wright will eventually meet the same fate as discarded safety Tanard Jackson or tight end Kellen Winslow.

For starters, the Bucs have to be cautious about a rush to judgment.

Remember when receiver Mike Williams was arrested on suspicion of DUI in November 2010? Williams immediately proclaimed his innocence and the Bucs played him later that week in a game against the 49ers. He passed a breath test on the scene that indicated his blood alcohol level was below the legal limit. Two months later, the Hillsborough County state attorney's office dropped the charge.

Wright, who signed a five-year, $37 million contract with the Bucs in March, was arrested July 2 after an injury accident near the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, according to police.

Los Angeles police said Central Traffic Division officers responded to an injury accident at James M. Wood and Georgia streets at 12:20 a.m. (PST). Wright, driving a Mercedes XLS luxury sports coupe, was involved in a rear-end collision with a Chevy Silverado.

Wright told police he had been drinking at a friend's house near Hollywood, and refused a Breathalyzer or field sobriety test. He was charged with felony DUI because the accident involved injury. The other driver involved complained of pain but declined medical treatment. Wright was not injured.

He was released after posting $100,000 bail. Wright has a court appearance July 23, three days before Bucs veterans are scheduled to report to training camp.

The BUcs guaranteed $15.5-million of Wright's deal. They need him to be their starting right cornerback, allowing Ronde Barber to move to safety. Financially and otherwise, it's not good business to cut ties with Wright.
NFL teams are also limited in their ability to unilaterally issue sanctions against players who run afoul of the law by the collective bargaining agreement, particularly without due process. Moreover, there's an understanding that any punishment levied by a team does not preclude NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell from implementing penalties as well.

Did Wright act responsibly by drinking and then driving? Definitely not. But the evidence, or lack thereof, may not demonstrate he violated the law.

Schiano has spent a lot of time talking about how he expects players to do things the right way. He wants Buccaneer men. Certainly, this arrest of a free agent he signed won't sit well with the Bucs head coach. Wright missed most of the off-season workouts and minicamps recovering from a non-football related illness.

But Wright is most likely not going to be released like Jackson, whose history of suspensions from the league are well documented. And he won't be traded like Winslow, who didn't buy in to Schiano's disciplined program. Disposition of Wright's DUI case could also take several months.

Schiano promises to hold his players to a high standard. But he also has to deal with them fairly.


[Last modified: Thursday, July 12, 2012 5:34pm]


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