Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports

Jarius Wright a forgotten man in Minnesota Vikings offense

Last September, the Vikings signed Jarius Wright to a contract extension. This September, they were shopping him. As the season nears an end, he's been all but invisible.

With all the injuries that have plagued the Minnesota Vikings this season, one player has been mostly sidelined despite being healthy – wide receiver Jarius Wright.

In his first four seasons with the Vikings, Wright played in 55 games, including 14 starts, and caught 124 passes for 1,774 yards and seven touchdowns. He was a valued role player who could be counted on for 30-40 catches for 400-500 yards. He also had a knack for making the big play in a scoring drive, averaging 14.3 yards a reception for his career.

But, this season, Wright has been almost invisible. He has been inactive for seven of the team’s 15 games and, in the eight games he has been active, he has been targeted just seven times – catching six passes for just 43 yards.

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If there was an injury or a disciplinary issue that could explain his lack of playing time, Wright could handle that. What bothers him is that he doesn’t have the slightest clue why his playing time has been so extremely limited.

“I wish I had an answer for you,” Wright said. “It would probably be easier if I knew what was going on or why, but for me, it’s all about being a professional in whatever situation I’m faced with. I show up to work each and every day and work as hard as possible. I still know that I can be a great player in this league. For me personally, I just work as hard as possible and be ready for any opportunity given.”

When he was being used often, Wright had a knack for the big play. He has five career receptions of more than 50 yards and has playmaking ability.

His primary frustration has been trying to keep his emotions in check because he will see plays called that used to be his forte and has a hard time watching those plays because he’s confident that if given the opportunity, he could break off one of those passes into a game-changing catch-and-run.

“You try not to think that way,” Wright said. “It’s nothing against our receivers because we’ve got a great receiver corps, but I definitely feel like I could have been contributing and help make the group even better than we already are.”

Even worse for Wright has been the not knowing as to when or if he was going to play from one week to the next.

Injured players likely would know on Friday whether or not they would suit up for action on Sunday. For Wright, it became a weekly cat and mouse game of entering the locker room prior to a game to find out from the equipment guys whether or not he was going to be active.

“I walk into the locker on Sunday and if my jersey is on my chair I’m playing and, if it’s not, I’m inactive,” Wright said. “That’s how I would find out every week – on Sunday morning. That’s kind of how it worked. I’d come in each and every Sunday ready and willing to play. When I wouldn’t see my jersey, it would be kind of a letdown because I always want to help our team and believe I have something to offer. It’s never about me – I want to make that understood. It’s all about the receiver group or the offense or the team. It was never about me.”

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Wright hasn’t let his limbo state in the offense get the better of him. He shows up at work every day with a smile on his face and a determination to make plays during the week of practice to get consideration for playing time on Sunday.

He has relied on his faith the keep himself strong and on point, because he has to make the most of his opportunities when they rise. When they don’t, he relies on his values to help him through the difficult professional times.

“I don’t get mad about it because deep down I know that something better is coming for me,” Wright said. “I’m a good Christian man and I believe God has a plan for everyone and I believe this is just part of his plan for me. I just take it for what it’s worth, keep my faith in God and I believe it will all work out for me and I believe I will be making plays again.”

What may be the tipping point for Wright is his contract. Prior to the start of the 2015 season, he signed a four-year, $14.8 million contract that included $7 million in guarantees. If the Vikings were to trade or release him, there would be $1.68 million in dead money against the salary cap, which would represent more than half of the $3.16 million he would represent against the 2017 salary cap – a $2.5 million base salary, a $100,000 workout bonus and $560,000 that is a pro-rated portion of his signing bonus.

Whether losing $1.68 million against the salary cap to save $1 million in salary above and beyond what the Vikings are on the hook for will be the big question moving forward.

Those numbers have Wright wondering if his future is with Minnesota or someone else. He fully expects to continue his football career somewhere, but he isn’t 100 percent confident it will be with the Vikings.

“The thing with contracts is that I don’t control it, they do,” Wright said. “Whatever they decide, I’m just going to roll with it. Wherever it is, I will be making plays again.”


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