Ravens' Wright firing spirals again

OWINGS MILLS – With his helmet on a swivel and the football firmly clasped in his right hand, Anthony Wright's eyes scanned for daylight. The Baltimore Ravens' backup quarterback went through his reads and located veteran wideout Derrick Mason breaking free across the middle.

Wright uncorked a hard, accurate spiral to Mason as he dove between defenders in a red-zone drill. Touchdown, Ravens.

Most importantly, Wright's post-throw routine during the Ravens' voluntary passing camp only included shaking his fist and congratulating Mason. Not wincing in pain because of his surgically-repaired shoulder.

A year after a torn labrum in his throwing arm forced him out for the first nine games on the physically unable to perform list and relegated him to third-string status behind Kordell Stewart for the remainder of last season, Wright is nearly fully healed. He has regained the majority of his velocity and touch as his muscle memory returns, estimating his arm strength at 90 percent.

"It's feeling really good, and I'm getting back into the rhythm of throwing," Wright said. "Last year was tough on me, not being able to play with the guys. I'm healthy now. I'm ready to roll.

"I still feel like I can lead this team. I understand this business. I understand the way things work and I'm second in the pecking order. I've been a backup for a long time. I'm just going to be patient and wait for an opportunity."

Wright is a mobile, strong-armed quarterback who led Baltimore to a 5-2 mark and an AFC North division title when starter Kyle Boller injured his leg in 2003.

Since that period of success, Wright has achieved the off-field financial security of a new contract, but has experienced medical setbacks.

Now, the coaching staff is discovering Wright's potential all over again as the Ravens' top insurance policy behind Boller.

"He looks strong, he's past the injury," Ravens coach Brian Billick said of Wright, who has started 12 games in six NFL seasons. "The next step is obviously taking it into physical contact. We feel very good about our No. 1 and No. 2."

For Wright, like every backup, it's a matter of biding his time and ensuring that he's as physically and mentally prepared as possible.

The former undrafted rookie from South Carolina certainly was in 2003, when he completed 94 of 178 passes for 1,199 yards, nine touchdowns and seven interceptions. Wright also engineered the best comeback in franchise history against the Seattle Seahawks, throwing four touchdowns with no interceptions in a 44-41 overtime victory.

"I think Anthony has looked outstanding," quarterbacks coach Rick Neuheisel said. "It's hard for me to believe he's been out with an injury all of last year. You can't tell any of those side effects. He's got a gifted throwing arm.

"He's got great command. There's no letdown in the huddle because he's the second quarterback. He's clearly in command. He's a pro. Knock on wood, if something was to happen, we would be fine."

Boller was one of 12 quarterbacks out of 32 to start every game last season, and Wright didn't take a snap for the first time since his rookie season in 1999 with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Using the factors of probability and ability, though, it's not unrealistic to think that Wright could receive another opportunity this fall should Boller get injured or falter.

"I can accept my role because I accept this business and this is what I chose to do," Wright said. "I understand that things happen, and I can deal with it. It's all about patience and being ready when they call your name. That's what it means to be the backup quarterback."

A long time contributor and Chief Writer to RavensInsider, Aaron Wilson writes for the Carroll County Times in Westminster Maryland.

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