Earlier this week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith mentioned that second-year tight end Tim Wright had experienced a rough practice or two, with his usually sure hands failing him a couple more times than usual. Predictably, that drew a crowd to Wright's locker during Thursday's media session. Just as predictably, the young player handled the criticism well; his candor and attitude have been just as impressive as his conversion from wide receiver to tight end over the last 14 months.
"It's just something that comes with the game," said Wright. "You go on a little fall but you've just got to get back up and keep working on what you're doing. I just want to go out there and perfect my craft every day. Sometimes it's not your best day but you've got to flush it, go back out there the next day and put it all together."
A year after absorbing a new position on the fly and then surprisingly emerging as a 50-catch tight end in the NFL, Wright is powering his way through another challenging learning curve this summer. The Bucs' new offense has the former Rutgers wideout in unfamiliar spots at times – including some H-back work – and that may have contributed to his recent hiccups. What's important is that he's learning from his struggles and proving once again that he can be an asset to the offense.
In fact, Smith had far more encouraging words to say about Wright on Thursday.
"I love Tim Wright as a football player," said the coach. "You go through spells where you don't play your best ball for a short period of time. When I talked then, it was a little period of time where Tim hadn't played his best ball, but you look at the big picture, Tim Wright has been a good football player for us, we like what he'll be able to do. There have been other days where I talked about going forward what we're going to do with him, you can split him out and the matchups we'll have with safeties and linebackers. You can catch me at any time and I might be disappointed in a player, but big picture, no there's no disappointment with Tim Wright. We like him being on our football team."
Smith touched on other topics on Thursday after practice, as noted below.
"We just made a trade. We just traded Kelcie McCray to the Kansas City Chiefs for Rishaw Johnson, an offensive guard that was with the Seattle Seahawks during the 2012 season and of course with Kansas City during the 2013 season. We said that we'll continue to look at players that we think will continue to help our football team as much as anything, so we're pretty excited about getting Rishaw Johnson here into the mix. Going to bring him in, he should land sometime tonight. Again, we're excited about letting him be a part of our ball club. Practice today went well. Finished up. Game plan is in. Guys are excited about playing for an extended period of time. Not necessarily final opportunity, but for some of the players, it could be. Of course, cuts coming up next week and that's important. Injury-wise, the guys are getting better. We'll leave some of the players here. Don't know exactly who yet. We'll kind of go from there."
On newly acquired guard Rishaw Johnson and where he will line up:
"As an offensive guard for us. He's played a little bit of center also, so it gives us a little flexibility there. Just a big athlete – young, looked pretty good on video. Don't know a lot about him right now, but everything has checked out. Again, whenever you get a chance to add a big, young athlete, you have to be pretty excited about that. He has good video. It's not like he's some guy we're trying to search for. Being on an active roster for a period of time with Seattle and Kansas City, we know those guys. And, of course, he's a good player. Kansas City also got a good football player in Kelcie McCray. We like our safety position. We had a few guys there. So we feel like we got a good football player and they got a good football player also."
A Throwback Thursday gallery dedicated to last year's win over this weekend's opponent, the Buffalo Bills.
On how the team approaches the acquisition of a player:**
"We're not going into a whole lot of detail. What I said is that we'll continue to look for players this time of year – guys that might not have a great chance of making your ball club, and maybe that's the case on their end also. It just seemed like a good fit as much as anything. He's a player that became available and we thought it was a good fit for us."
On which players will not play in the third preseason game on Saturday:
"That'd be hard for me to say right now. Some of the players I've talked about earlier and said will be out for an extended period of time won't. Mike Jenkins will not. I think I talked about that earlier. Da'Quan Bowers will not play. Steven Means is making progress. Will Gholston will not play. Of course Charles Sims you know about. Mike James will not play I assume the rest of the guys will be available for us."
On how much emphasis he puts on winning in the preseason:
"I'm not just making that statement, but anytime you keep score, you want to win. When you go and play a pickup basketball game, they're keeping score – you want to win. So we would like to [win]. But there's a bigger picture too: we would like to win, but we need to see certain guys. If we were just interested in winning, we would play our best players every down. We're not doing that. We have other things we need to do. We would like to win when our guys that we're going to tee up with for Carolina when they're out there. At the same time though, some of the backups might have to be able to play, so you want them to play well too. So a lot goes into it. And we haven't won a game. I'd like to go with the routine that we're going to have during the regular season when we win a football game, and we haven't been able to do that. I haven't really answered your question. I realize that. I guess I could say, 'Yes, we would like to win.'"
On how running back Charles Sims' injury will affect him going forward:
"I think it affects you. You just came into the NFL and you want to make an impact right away and something happens to you that hasn't happened before. it's humbling, but then you move on. You see that a lot of players go through injuries and have to come back. Knowing a player like Charles Sims though, he'll recover and that's what we have to do is let him know that this is a part of it. [Injuries] happen and you'll come back as strong as ever. We just want him to come back as soon as possible also."
On what he has seen from defensive end Larry English:
"Probably exactly what you would want to see from him when he came out, he was drafted so high. We brought him in here – we're always looking for outside pass-rushers and we brought Larry in hoping that he could give us some of that. In practice, from the first day he was ok, the next day he was better, so we're anxious to let him play. You might see him early in this game, we want to see him against good competition to see exactly what he can do."
On kicking touchbacks:
"Preseason-wise and again going into what we like to do in the preseason, we want to see if our kickoff team can cover. We don't necessarily want to kick the ball out of the end zone. We know Michael Koenen can kick it out most of the time; if we want him to, he can hit it deep and all of that. Ideally, we want to see if our kickoff team can cover. As much as anything, we're asking Mike to not kick it as deep as he possibly can. I know the other night he knocked it through – he just wants to make sure everybody knows he can still kick the ball far, but that's what you would like. I talked about the onside kick, you want to hit all of the situations in the preseason and as far as the rule, hopefully we'll have a great kickoff return and I can start complaining about all of the touchbacks and we don't get a chance to bring the ball out. Right now, if you look at us we're bringing most, on the other side, we've brought most of the kickoff returns back. We want to see if we can do anything with the returns also."
On having Koenen kickoff instead of kicker Connor Barth:
"I don't think he gets out of his flow, but I think it's good to have a player like Mike that can do both. It's as simple as that. It doesn't happen very often and for Mike, say your kicker goes down, who kicks in a game? You need someone. You will see Mike, hopefully we'll have opportunities, but Mike will kick an extra point during the preseason, one of these games. He's a valuable guy with all of the things he can do and as Connor let me know, [he] can punt a little bit also. That competition is always good.