Bears' Wright focusing on eliminating mental lapses
Safety knows his job depends on it
By Vaughn McClure, Chicago Tribune reporter
7:35 p.m. CDT, July 23, 2012
Major Wright understands what's at stake. The film from the last two seasons serves as a constant reminder.
At times, Wright has displayed flashes of the talented, hard-hitting safety the Bears felt they were fortunate to land in the third round of the 2010 draft. But more often than not, Wright's mental lapses have overshadowed his promise. And he knows it.
"My main focus now has been to really hone in on the defense and to know what I'm doing every play," Wright said. "Becoming a smarter player will make me play as fast as I can and to my ability."
Wright apparently made major strides with the mental aspect of the game this offseason, but the true test will come when the Bears open their exhibition schedule Aug. 9 against the Broncos. Although coach Lovie Smith called Wright a "great player" at the scouting combine in February, it didn't prevent the Bears from selecting Oregon State's Brandon Hardin in the third round of this year's draft.
Hardin, who is starting out at free safety, could push for playing time at either safety spot, although his transition from college cornerback could slow his progress. No one can truly measure Hardin against Wright or anyone else until the Bears put the pads on at training camp.
Plus Smith's ringing endorsement of Wright would indicate the Bears will give the former Florida standout every opportunity to retain his starting role.
"It makes me feel good, but I can never let my guard down," Wright said of Smith's words. "I'm still getting better. I don't really feed into stuff that people say. I just take things day by day and try to get better. We're going to see what's up because I know what I'm capable of doing."
Although the Bears believe they have a capable tandem in Wright and projected starting free safety Chris Conte, they need more from the back end of their defense. The duo combined for four interceptions last season, three by Wright. But the play involving Wright that really stood out from 2011 was the one that led to Brian Urlacher tearing knee ligaments.
Wright enters his third NFL season with 11 starts in 23 career games. He has missed nine games due to injury, elevating concerns about his durability. Yet Wright seems more concerned about his mental focus than his health.
"I need to know what can hurt me and what can't; what the offense can do in terms of the formations and how it affects me," he said. "Our defense is never going to change. If we just focus on our keys, our alignment and our assignments, we're going to be all right."
Conte thinks his tag-team partner will be just fine.
"With Major and I, I think the best thing we've developed this offseason has been our communication," Conte said. "We get along well on and off the field. And we both believe that we have the ability to be one of the best safety tandems in the league."