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Bucs' Wright grateful for second chance

Eric Wright agreed to take a huge pay cut in restructuring to a non-guaranteed one-year, $1.5 million deal that is banking on his potential.
Eric Wright agreed to take a huge pay cut in restructuring to a non-guaranteed one-year, $1.5 million deal that is banking on his potential.
Published Jun. 4, 2013

TAMPA — Cornerback Eric Wright acknowledged that he wasn't sure he'd be back with the Bucs this season.

That uncertainty would have seemed implausible a year ago, when Wright was courted as a free agent, brought in on a private jet and signed to a five-year, $37.5 million deal.

But Wright's tumultuous first season in Tampa Bay had its share of troubles, from a nagging Achilles injury to a four-game suspension for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, leading to a legal challenge over the voiding of his contract's guarantees.

"Of course there was concern," Wright said. "A lot of concern."

Wright, 27, is grateful for another shot. He agreed to take a huge pay cut in restructuring to a non-guaranteed one-year, $1.5 million deal.

"I feel like I'm a pretty exceptional player, and the world has yet to see that in its entirety," Wright said. "I have to just go out there and remain consistent and do whatever I can to help this team win."

Though Wright remains on the roster, and has looked good in offseason practices, he'll have to earn his starting spot, coach Greg Schiano said. The Bucs secondary went through a monster makeover this offseason, with the acquisitions of Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis and free safety Dashon Goldson and the retirement of Ronde Barber.

Mississippi State cornerback Johnthan Banks was drafted in the second round and could vie for the spot opposite Revis, with former Largo High star Leonard Johnson and Danny Gorrer leaning on their experience last year while Wright was hurt.

"There's some guys that finished the year that they think it's their position, and Eric thinks it's his position, so we'll see," Schiano said. "I'm not sure exactly how everything will turn out, nor do I care. I know I like the guys that are right now competing. That's the most important thing, and we'll let it all play out."

Wright, who has 14 career interceptions over six seasons with three teams, is confident.

"As long as I'm healthy and out here, there's no way that I'm not a contributor on this team," Wright said. "That's the type of competitor I am. That's how I am in general. I've been playing this game for six years, and I've been a starter for six years, and that says something about the person I am, the player I am, and where my mind-set is at all times. I don't see it being any different."

There's no question Wright has talent. The San Francisco native looked up to Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, and Wright made his share of prime-time moves in a highlight-reel 60-yard interception return for a touchdown in Week 2 against the Giants last year.

"That should have been the play of the year," Wright said.

But Wright wound up playing just 10 games for the Bucs, partly because of an Achilles injury, as well as the suspension, which he said stemmed from a one-time use of Adderall. The team sidelined him for the season finale in December, presumably to avoid any risk of injury that might have impacted the Bucs' ability to release him later.

Wright filed a grievance against the Bucs — contending they didn't have the right to void his guaranteed 2013 base salary of $7.75 million — but an arbitrator ruled in March in favor of the team. Wright, however, was encouraged after meeting with Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik in April that he was in their plans.

"This is definitely a place that I'm happy to be," Wright said. "And dealing with coach and the Glazers and Mark Dominik, it's obviously a vote of confidence for them to give me an opportunity to stay here, and continue my playing career.

"So I'm grateful for that."

tampa hire: The Bucs hired Nelson Luis, a Tampa Jesuit and USF graduate, as director of communications. Luis held a similar position for the past 12 years with the NBA's Rockets. His career began in the Bucs communications department from 1995-99.

Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com. Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

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