Friday, February 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs haven't decided if cornerback Eric Wright will play

TAMPA — The Bucs are on the brink of allowing the most passing yards in a season in NFL history and have not won since their starting cornerback was suspended last month.

But they have not made a decision on whether to play Eric Wright on Sunday at Atlanta.

"He'll be with us, and I'll have to make that decision," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.

Will it be a game-day decision?

"Don't know yet. Might be (today)," Schiano said. "I've just got to figure it out. It's really just what do we think is the best thing to do at this point in the year for our team to win."

The Bucs have allowed 4,545 passing yards (303 per game). That's 251 fewer than the record of 4,796 set by the Packers last season. Atlanta's Matt Ryan averages 286.4 for the season and put up 353 in a 24-23 win against the Bucs on Nov. 25.

Wright missed that game with an Achilles injury. The next week, he began a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Wright says he took Adderall, a stimulant. Tampa Bay has lost five straight with Wright out of the lineup.

Wright, signed during the last offseason, said he spent the past four weeks rehabbing the Achilles injury, and he has practiced all three days this week. Yet Schiano remains noncommittal.

"We're kind of seeing how he runs around out there," defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. "You sit out for a month or so, it's not like you just jump back in. I don't think it's like riding a bike. But he's an NFL starting corner. That's what we brought him here to do. (Losing him) was a hit for us."

Something to consider: The Bucs can void $7.5 million in guaranteed salary for 2013 because of the suspension. If they're considering releasing Wright, the collective bargaining agreement guarantees a player a maximum of $1.5 million in future earnings if a contract was in place at the time of any injury that prompts a release.

Cap maneuvers: Are the Bucs gearing up for another splash in free agency? They certainly positioned themselves by restructuring two of their biggest contracts.

While it will not affect the amount of money WR Vincent Jackson and LG Carl Nicks are paid, both agreed to convert their 2013 salaries into bonuses that will be counted on the 2012 ledger. That allows the Bucs to prorate about $25 million due to them in 2013 over several years.

The net result: The Bucs have more salary cap space next season. They have $98 million in cap dollars currently committed in 2013, according to ESPN. The salary cap is projected to be about $121 million.

That $98 million could be further reduced by offseason moves. And look for the Bucs to roll over unused cap space from this season, about $8 million, to give them even more room.

MILESTONE watch: WR Mike Williams needs 69 yards for his first 1,000-yard season. He also is poised to set a career high in yards per catch. His 16.3 currently is sixth in the league among starting receivers.

Williams, in his third season, credits Jackson for much of his success.

"With that guy on the field, you have to get at least 900 yards on the other side," Williams said.

Williams also scored eight touchdowns a season after he scored just three.

"That's one thing I wanted to do was get back in the end zone," he said. "I think I could have gotten back in there a lot more this year and helped us win. But it was a lot better than I did last year."

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