Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Follow-up thoughts on Wright, Ohrnberger
By Mike Rodak
Some follow-up thoughts following the release of defensive lineman Mike Wright and guard Rich Ohrnberger on Wednesday:
1. The release of Wright came as no surprise, and it would be shocking if he resumes his NFL career. After a concussion ended his 2010 season on Nov. 21, Wright was rarely spotted in the locker room for the remainder of the season, his chair often folded up. He returned to the field last summer, but suffered another concussion in the season opener against Miami.
A somber Wright spoke to reporters several weeks later, discussing the neurological and psychological impacts of both head injuries. Wright's focus at that point seemed to be on quality-of-life, not football.
2. While the Patriots almost certainly weren't factoring Wright into their plans for next season, his release highlights the defensive line as a draft need for New England. Even aside from pass rushers Andre Carter and Mark Anderson set to become free agents, the Patriots are still in the market for big bodies at the position. Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love have emerged as the stalwarts, but Mryon Pryor is coming off a back injury, while 2009 second-round pick Ron Brace could be entering a prove-it season. Shaun Ellis will be a free agent and is unlikely to return, while Gerard Warren, also a free agent, turns 34 in July. Brandon Deaderick is also in the mix, but with him starting in Super Bowl XLVI, the Patriots could view the position as in need of an upgrade.
3. Ohrnberger's release could also be related to a head injury, which he sustained in the preseason finale against the Giants last September. Unlike Wright, Ohrnberger was occasionally spotted in the Patriots locker room after being placed on injured reserve last season. It is possible that Ohrnberger was waived with the designation of having failed his post-season physical, as the fourth-year guard projected to be in the mix along the interior offensive line for next season.
The Patriots traded up to select Ohrnberger in the fourth round in 2009, with player personnel director Nick Caserio calling him a "bulldog" at a post-draft event. Ohrnberger could still return to New England, but at this point it doesn't appear that the team got what they wanted out of the selection.
4. In addition to Ohrnberger's release, the Patriots also have centers Dan Connolly and Dan Koppen set to become unrestricted free agents next month. Of the two, Connolly would seem more likely to return. Otherwise, the Patriots have left guard Logan Mankins locked up long-term, but right guard Brian Waters turned 35 last week and his NFL future is likely limited to the 2012 season, if that. Centers Ryan Wendell and Nick McDonald were fill-in options when Koppen and Connolly were injured last season, but the interior offensive line could still be a draft target for the Patriots in April. NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock has called the position one of the best classes in the draft.