The wait is over: Jarius Wright delivers with two big catches in debut
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Jarius Wright wasn't happy.
The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver felt like he had finally gotten his big chance and here he had blown it. Dropped a deep pass from quarterback Christian Ponder on a play designed for the rookie. A play that ideally should have resulted in a touchdown.
Fortunately for Wright that drop came on Friday during practice at Winter Park.
"I was like, 'I can't miss my moment,'" Wright said.
When it really counted, the rookie did not miss his moment and he certainly did not disappoint.
Making his NFL regular-season debut after being inactive for the first nine games, Wright raced down the field on a post route on the Vikings' fifth offensive play of Sunday's game against Detroit.
Wright went right by a linebacker and then got behind safety Erik Coleman as Ponder stepped up in the pocket and let fly with a long pass down the middle of the field.
Wright slowed himself around the 5-yard line to make the catch and was touched down at the Lions 1-yard line. Wright said he might have scored but, after dropping the same pass in practice, he wanted to make sure he caught it first.
"That pass right there, if I would have dropped it, who knows how the game would have went," Wright said. "I would have been down at the lowest level. Luckily, I concentrated and made the catch first before I tried to score."
Wright completed what he started one play and one Vikings penalty later, catching a 3-yard pass from Ponder for the touchdown in the Vikings' 34-24 victory.
"I'm not going to lie," said Wright, a fourth-round pick from Arkansas. "I think I enjoyed catching the long pass (the most) because that kind of got the team going early. Of course the touchdown does too, but I think the long deep pass got us going early and I know it got the fans going early."
Ponder said that after Wright dropped the deep pass Friday the two went back and worked on the play. Coach Leslie Frazier acknowledged Wright was down after the drop but the feeling in the Vikings' offensive room was the play would work.
"We all had confidence that he would make that play and Christian delivered a great throw and he did a great job of catching it," Frazier said.
Wright's success Sunday, he caught three passes for a team-leading 65 yards, likely resulted in a few raised eyebrows from a fan base that had been wondering why the receiver didn't get on the field sooner.
Wright suffered a sprained left ankle in the Vikings' preseason finale in Houston. He said Sunday that the ankle did not recover as quickly as he, or the team, would have liked and estimated that it kept him off the field for four weeks.
However, that means Wright could have made his debut as a Viking long ago.
He played on Sunday because star receiver Percy Harvin was inactive due to a sprained ankle. Frazier said he knew Friday that it was very unlikely Harvin would be able to play against the Lions.
Wright was drafted to serve as Harvin's backup at slot receiver, and so it made sense that Wright would finally get his chance with Harvin out.
Wright and Harvin share a similar build, with Wright standing 5-foot-10, 180 pounds and Harvin going 5-11, 184. Wright credits Harvin with giving him plenty of valuable advice this season, including telling him to use his speed to beat defenders.
Until Sunday, however, that speed hadn't been put on display.
While Wright has seen fans use social media to ask him on a weekly basis why he wasn't playing, he never actually went to ask that question of Frazier or front office officials.
"I'm not that type of guy," Wright said. "I actually went up to Coach Frazier and I said, 'Thank you for giving me the opportunity.' Because even though Percy was down, we have a lot of great receivers or we can pick up a receiver from anywhere. You know how the NFL works. I thank Coach Frazier for giving me the opportunity."
Wright said he learned a lot about the NFL by getting time to observe but admits sitting out each Sunday hasn't been easy.
"It's been hard on me," he said. "It would be hard on anybody who likes playing the game of football that wanted to get out there and help their team. Not saying that I haven't been helping in practice and everything. But just the opportunity to get out there and help your team on Sunday. I got that chance this Sunday and I just tried to make the most out of it."
As for what the future holds, Wright isn't sure. The Vikings have a bye and will return to play on Nov. 25 at Chicago. Harvin likely will be back for that game and so Wright doesn't know if he will be active.
All he knows is that the fans who communicate with him via Twitter won't have to ask why he didn't play against the Lions.
"I've seen (those tweets from supporters) but I've also seen my doubters on Twitter, too," he said. "You have people on both sides. You have people on your side, asking, 'Why don't you play?' Every Sunday they ask me why I'm not active.
"You all know that's not my choice. But they're fans and they really don't understand that. I couldn't say anything back. I just wouldn't tweet back. So I guess they don't have to ask that question this weekend to me."