Bucs' Major Wright gets major opportunity

Major Wright, right, seems to be the most likely candidate to take Mark Barron's starting safety spot. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Major Wright, right, seems to be the most likely candidate to take Mark Barron's starting safety spot. [DIRK SHADD | Times]
Published Nov. 1, 2014

TAMPA — Major Wright knows the opportunity in front of him.

When the Bucs traded 2012 first-round draft pick Mark Barron to the Rams on Tuesday, a hole opened at safety in the starting lineup. And Wright, a Tampa 2 veteran and the most experienced reserve left, seems like the one to fill it.

"I can't let my guard down just because this opportunity did come," Wright said. "It can leave, too."

And that's something Wright knows well.

After four seasons with the Bears, Wright, 26, signed with the Bucs as an unrestricted free agent in April. Tampa Bay gave him a chance to reunite with his onetime Bears coach, Lovie Smith — whom he calls a father/coach — and play the defense he did in Chicago.

"I know this defensive scheme well," Wright said. "I grew up in it."

His time with the Bucs nearly ended up being short. He was released in the final round of roster cuts in August. Wright received plenty of calls and text messages after the move, and his agent told him several other teams were interested in him.

As Wright considered his options, the situation soon resolved itself. Four days after cutting Wright, the Bucs put running back Charles Sims on the injured reserve/designated to return list after he tore a tendon in his right ankle. They brought Wright back.

"I made Tampa my home," Wright said. "When they called me back, I was just filled with joy."

Nine weeks later, his position is filled with promise entering Sunday's game against the Browns. The Bucs haven't said who will take Barron's starting spot, but Wright seems to be the most likely candidate. The former Gator worked alongside Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson during drills at Thursday's practice.

Though the Bucs have praised Bradley McDougald's ability to play deep and closer to the line of scrimmage, Wright has played five times as many defensive snaps (242) as McDougald (48) through the first seven games. Wright also has 19 tackles to McDougald's three.

"I've been around him, drafted him, seen him play good football," Smith said of Wright. "He's a good football player. We feel confident we won't miss a beat."

Wright has the potential to give the Bucs two things they're looking for: turnovers and knowledge of the defense.

The Bears' 2010 third-round pick had nine interceptions and three fumble recoveries over his last three seasons in Chicago and had interceptions in back-to-back games in 2013. And on a defense still figuring out the Tampa 2, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Wright can help communicate ideas on the field.

"His leadership is kind of the thing that sticks out to me," Frazier said. "To have someone back there that can kind of direct the secondary, that should help us."

Though Wright called his season "crazy," he said he tries not to think about its turbulence for him, from the waiver wire to potentially a starting spot. Just as quickly as good fortune appears, it can disappear.

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"You think about it, but it's a quick thought," Wright said. "Now it's game week. I can't just sit around and be happy just because this opportunity did open. I'm still hungry."

Contact Matt Baker at Follow @MBakerTBTimes.