- Michael C. Wright, ESPN Staff Writer
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Simply “knowing what I’m doing now,” makes all the difference, Wright said.
“(I’m) seeing things and just communicating,” he said. “That’s a key (thing) that I didn’t do my rookie year, and last year I didn’t communicate as much because I didn’t know as much. I didn’t know as much as I know now. I’ve studied. I’ve (done) this, and I’ve (done) that. I know my formations. I know everything now. So I feel like I’m more proactive on the field.”
That’s imperative now for Wright, who finds himself among the healthy at a position recently affected by injuries to starting free safety Chris Conte and rookie Brandon Hardin. In the third year of a four-year contract signed as a rookie, Wright said his transition into on-field maturity has been more than just the mental side of the game.
Working out in South Florida during the offseason, Wright “felt like I just needed to drop a few pounds (to) be quick(er), so I could run.”
Interestingly, both the physical and mental issues for Wright in his first two years manifested themselves in nagging injuries and mistakes. Out of a possible 32 regular-season games, Wright has played in 23; missing time as a rookie with a hamstring injury, and time in 2011 with a shoulder issue.
Wright wants to make it through a full 16-game slate healthy for the first time in his career.
“It’s very important. I’ve been praying on it,” Wright said. “I’ve been asking God to help me stay healthy. (I’m) doing more now, lifting weights more, going to treatment if nothing is even wrong with me; just going in there, just keeping my body going. The plays, they’re gonna come. Me staying healthy, I have to work on that.”
On the field, Wright led the safeties with 78 tackles (52 solo), but missed six potential stops, according to Pro Football Focus. What’s more is opponents targeted Wright 28 times in coverage, completing 71.4 percent of those attempts for an average of 18.3 yards per completion -- including 114 yards after the catch -- and three touchdowns.
Wright hopes all the extra study time prevents such negative statistics in 2012, as he prepares to go into Year 2 playing opposite Conte, who won’t play Friday when the Bears face the New York Giants.
“We feel like everybody needs to see everything,” Wright said. “If I see it before Craig (Steltz) or if I see it before Chris (Conte) or any other safety I’m back there with, I’ll warn them. If they see it before me, they’ll warn me. We all need to be on the same page. That’s what I think (has helped about) me growing up, now: I see more and I can communicate more to everybody else to let everybody else know what’s going on.”
Prior to Hardin suffering his neck injury against the Washington Redskins on Saturday, Wright said he spoke to the rookie about how to deal with the inevitable injuries he’d face.
“I’ve dealt with it for two years. It’s kind of something that you’ve got to deal with; put it in your past,” Wright said. “I learned that, that I’ve got to just get over it. Being that he’s a rookie, (he’s) coming in, and (I’m) informing him about injuries, how to overcome the injuries, how to stay within this defensive unit that we have. If he ever needs anything he can come to me. He can just (lean) on me because I’ve been through it.”
A more mature Major Wright is preparing for a breakthrough season.