Wright hoping to prove worth in contract year

Vikings receiver Jarius Wright has had increased production with each of his three NFL seasons. Now that he’s in his contract year, what is his focus?

The Vikings’ passing offense has been the center of controversy and debate for the last several years. From the time Brett Favre got hurt in 2010, there has been a revolving door at quarterback for the Vikings.

Tarvaris Jackson took Favre’s place, but knew his Vikings career was over when the team gave Christian Ponder his number. Donovan McNabb was supposed to be the answer in 2011, but he flamed out. In 2013, Ponder was anointed the starter, only to lose his job to Matt Cassel. Cassel entered training camp last year as the unquestioned starter, but that ended in Week 2 due to injury.

The team appears headed in the right direction with Teddy Bridgewater, who looks to end a five-year funk of lacking productivity from the passing game and, as fans saw last December, when allowed to cut loose, the Vikings’ pass offense can be formidable.

One player who has witnessed all the quarterback changes has been Jarius Wright, who has developed into a consistent receiver and was one of Bridgewater’s favorite targets when he took over as the starter.

While impressed with Bridgewater late in the season, Wright believes the biggest improvement to the 2015 Vikings passing game may well be the return of the game’s pre-eminent running back – Adrian Peterson.

“Just having Adrian back – not that we didn’t having threats back there last year – but having Adrian back changes everything,” Wright said. “Defenses have to pay a lot of attention to him and that can open things up for a lot of other players in the passing game. It’s going to open up our offense a lot more – even more than we were able to do last year.”

Wright’s contribution to the offense has steadily increased during his first three seasons in terms of both receptions (22-26-42) and yardage (310-434-588) and he is entering his contract year with a lot of upward momentum that he hopes to carry into 2015.

While he doesn’t dwell on the contract, he does see this season as a stepping stone to long-term financial security and a long NFL career.

“I try not to look at it in terms of being a contract year, but, at the same time, I know that it is,” Wright said. “My goal has been to try to contribute more each season as I go along. I was better my second year than my rookie year and I think I was better last year than I was my second year. I just want to win and I want to give everything I have each and every Sunday.”

One thing last year taught a lot of fans is that, while a bit undersized by NFL receiver standards, Wright isn’t exclusively a slot receiver. He can play outside and get physical with corners, but he understands the perception and, if that is what it takes to get a new contract with the Vikings (or perhaps for someone else willing to pay more if he hits the free agent market), he’s ready to be the consummate role player.

“I’m a smaller guy and people think that I’m a slot guy,” Wright said. “That’s all right. But I know I can do a lot of different things and play all the different receiver positions. I just want to give what I can to help the team win. If it ends up they want me to just be a slot guy, I’ll be the best slot guy I can be.”

  • Backup quarterback Shaun Hill was on the field Sunday for practice but didn’t take part in passing drills for the offense-on-defense portion of the practice. Head coach Mike Zimmer said they were simply giving the 35-year-old quarterback a rest.

  • Through a full week of practices, Josh Robinson remains the only veteran player to be sidelined due to injury.

  • The kicking drills took on an added dimension Sunday as strong gusting winds that whipped across the practice field turned kickoffs and punts into adventures for return men.

  • In red zone drills, Gerald Hodges took several snaps from the middle linebacker position with Eric Kendricks playing on the outside in pass coverage.

  • In a return drill in which two players run down to try to bottle up a return man, Marcus Sherels put on a show, faking players out of their shoes on every return opportunity he had.

  • During the special teams portion of the practice, the Vikings sprinkled in some on-side kicks into the mix to keep the return team on its toes.

  • Sometimes perseverance pays off. Since the start of training camp, fans have lined the areas where the players cross the street to enter the locker room area at Mankato State. On Sunday, those fans were rewarded as both Bridgewater and Peterson stopped to signs hundreds of autographs for fans who waited patiently in the heat with the hope of getting them to sign.

  • Hall of Famer Alan Page was in attendance at Sunday’s practice, taking it in from the sidelines with some family members.

  • Sunday’s practice was supposed to run from 2:30 to 5 p.m., but it started at 2 p.m. with a walk-through for about 45 minutes before the regular practice began and ended early.

  • The practice was attended by a capacity crowd Sunday, as fans streamed in droves to see the team’s Sunday workout. Both bleachers and the sidelines were filled to near-capacity throughout the practice.

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