Wright loses appeal, suspended four games for Adderal use
The Bucs were waiting for the other cleat to drop and it did Monday when the team was informed by the NFL that cornerback Eric Wright has been suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
Wright, who signed a 5-year, $37.5-million contract with the Bucs in March, apparently lost his appeal of the suspension that was disclosed in reports last month. The suspension will cost Wright $1,812,500 in salary. Wright will begin serving the suspension immediately and he is eligible to return to the Bucs Dec. 24, one day after they play the St. Louis Rams.
Wright is the second Bucs cornerback to be suspended for the non-prescription use of Adderall, a stimulant commonly used to treat ADHD. Cornerback Aqib Talib did not appeal his four-game suspension for Adderall use Oct. 13. With one week remaining on his suspension, the Bucs traded Talib and a seventh-round pick to the New England Patriots in exchange for a fourth-round selection in 2013.
"It was announced today by the NFL that I am being suspended for four games. This is a result of taking Adderall at the end of July for health issues I was experiencing. I am extremely disappointed that the suspension was upheld at my appeal.
"My agent and attorneys have only received this decision this afternoon and they will be discussing it with me in the immediate future. I apologize to the Glazer family, general manager Mark Dominik, coach Schiano and the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization, my teammates, our great fans and my family who have stood by me through this entire process. I will continue to prepare myself and look forward to rejoining the team.''
Despite two cornerbacks being suspended in the same season for Adderall use, Schiano said he does not believe the problem is widespread in the Bucs locker room. Seattle Seahawks defensive backs Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner reportedly are facing four-game suspensions for Adderall use and are appealing. Patriots defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was suspended four games Monday for testing positive for a banned performance enhancing drug.
"Well, you can never be certain about anything,'' Schiano said. "I'm not one of the players. This is a widespread issue throughout the National Football League right now. It's certainly not Tampa exclusive. So I hope we educate our guys, we talk to them quite a bit. You do your best and then you've got to trust the guys you've brought here. I think that's where Mark and I just keep going back to the same thing, we're going to get guys we believe fit into what we're going to do and then we're going to educate them and coach them and help them grow and that's our plan. It's like raising kids, it's never going to be 100 percent but you do your best.''
In 10 games, Wright recorded 39 tackles, seven passes defensed and one interception he returned 60 yards for a touchdown in Week 2 against the Giants. But he had been plagued by an Achilles injury that prevented him from finishing games San Diego and Carolina and left him inactive Sunday against the Falcons.
Wright's suspension, coupled with the trade of Talib, leaves the Bucs 32nd-ranked with an inexperienced group of defensive backs to play alongside 16-year veteran safety Ronde Barber. Leonard Johnson, an undrafted free agent from Iowa State, has been starting at Wright's spot at right cornerback. E.J. Biggers, a seventh-round pick in 2009, is starting at Talib's spot at left cornerback. The Bucs have been using newly acquired LaQuan Lewis and Danny Gorrer.
"Pretty much like it did yesterday, we're going to have the guys we had yesterday and then we gain (Anthony) Gaitor back in a week,'' Schiano said. "So, keep moving...they're a bunch of young kids that are trying to do what we ask them to do.''
Schiano said despite the changes at cornerback, he stood behind the decision to trade Talib.
"I think it probably lends to the confidence we have in our young players, that we felt we could do that and it was the best thing,'' Schiano said. "As I've told you guys several times, every decision we make is what gives the organization the best chance to win. When we made that decision, that's what we thought was best.''
Wright will be eligible to return to the Bucs for their final regular season game at Atlanta Dec. 30, providing he returns in game shape.
"I'm just disappionted he's going to be suspended for four weeks,'' Schiano said. "He's part of our team. But it's just like anything else when someone is injured. You move on and you figure out a way to put your best 11 out there and when you go sub-package, put your best new 11 with an extra DB....we'll just keep working and get it figured out. But I'm disappointed this has happened in our organization and we're going to do everything in our power to keep educating and work so this isn't an issue moving forward.''
Wright's suspension comes when the Bucs are still live in the race for the final NFC wildcard spot, tied at 6-5 with Seattle and Minnesota. But the Bucs have a tough road ahead. In addition to facing Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning on Sunday in Denver, the Bucs have games against the Eagles' Michael Vick, the Saints' Drew Brees and Ryan again.
"Hey, that's life in the NFL,'' Schiano said. "Just get ready. We're going to practice and meet and prepare and then we're going to go out to Denver and play the best game we've played all year. Where that stacks up agaisnt Denver and Peyton Manning, I don't know. I only control half of that. But I'm going to do my best to make sure we're at our best.''
Despite the Bucs decision to trade Talib during his suspension, Schiano indicated Wright would become a welcome addition back to the club Dec. 24 and hopes he can play in the final regular-season game and beyond.
"I hope that he stays in condition so he can come back and participate,'' Schiano said. "It's the end of the year, there's a lot of variables. We're going to have to wait and see on that one. But I anticipate he will and that would lead to the next logical thought that we'd get him back because he's a good player.''
"I'm disappointed. I'm just disappionted he's going to be suspended for four weeks. He's part of our team. But it's just like anything else when someone is injured. You move on and you figure out a way to put your best 11 out there and when you go sub-package