Craig: Quietly, Vikings receiver Wright shows his stuff

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 27, 2014 - 12:03 AM

The Vikings’ fourth receiver got the best of Richard Sherman last year and won’t soon forget it.

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Vikings receiver Jarius Wright burned Seattle all-world trash-talker and cornerback Richard Sherman for a 38-yard touchdown reception in November last year. “Sherman didn’t have anything to say to me after that play,” Wright said.

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The NFL wouldn’t be talking so much about players talking too much if it weren’t for Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman.

“Yeah, you could probably say that,” Vikings receiver Jarius Wright said.

Wright is two things rarely found in one person. He’s an NFL receiver and he’s quiet.

Sherman, on the other hand, is loud. Too loud sometimes for the NFL’s taste.

Part of the league’s offseason focus on workplace misbehavior has involved on-field taunting. Although Sherman isn’t the only trash-talker who crosses the line, he did become the most disliked offender of sportsmanship after millions witnessed his unbecoming behavior at the end of Seattle’s victory over the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.

“I don’t agree with what he did,” Wright said. “It’s something that should definitely be taken out of the game. That stuff is what starts fights.”

After making a brilliant game- saving pass deflection while covering receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone in the closing seconds, Sherman descended to a level of unattractive disrespect that the NFL wants to eliminate. He chased down and got in Crabtree’s face. He flashed the universal choke sign. And then he used the live postgame TV interview for the infamous rant that promoted himself as the “best corner in the game” and belittled Crabtree as a “sorry receiver.”

“We’ve got to change our conduct on the field,” said Jeff Fisher, Rams coach and Competition Committee member, while addressing the league’s taunting issue in general in March. “We’ve got to bring the element of respect to its highest level back to our game.”

No one asked him, but Wright could argue he has the repellent for Sherman’s poisonous tongue. Or at least he did back on Nov. 17.

“We called it ‘Z numbers,’ ” Wright said. “It’s a six-step, plant out and then cut up the numbers.”

Sherman bit so badly on Wright’s plant fake that he was burned deep for a game-tying, 38-yard touchdown reception.

“He reached out and tried to grab me,” said Wright, “but I was already by him.”

Seattle went on to win 40-21. But Wright’s touchdown made it a 10-10 game in the second quarter. Yet Wright never said a word to Sherman.

“I did blow kisses to the crowd,” Wright said. “But I didn’t go up to Sherman. That’s not my style. Don’t get me wrong. I trash talk every now and then a little bit. But I don’t initiate the trash talk. I wait for someone to say something to me. But Sherman didn’t have anything to say to me after that play.”

Sherman, who was miked for television in that game, had plenty to say to some of Wright’s fellow receivers. He told Cordarrelle Patterson he needed to lift more weights and Joe Webb that he was a “sorry” receiver and a “waste of my time.”

“Some of that’s just part of the game,” Wright said. “Talking back and forth from a distance. I don’t hate Richard Sherman. He’s a top corner. He can be arrogant sometimes, but that’s some guys’ style. If he wasn’t so arrogant, would he still be Richard Sherman?

“I beat him on a route, but I’m going to stay humble. Richard Sherman has covered plenty of receivers and locked them down. I beat him one play.”

At 5-10, 182 pounds, Wright certainly doesn’t look like an NFL deep threat. Yet he has a way of slipping into games as a No. 4 receiver and then sneaking behind defenders to catch deep passes off deceptive double moves.

“I know,” Wright said. “It got mind-boggling to me sometimes that I wasn’t used more as a deep threat [under former offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave]. I definitely can be that guy.”

Wright spent the first eight games of his rookie season (2012) as a healthy gameday inactive. On the fifth play of his first NFL game, he caught a 54-yard pass. In his second season, he averaged a team-high 16.7 yards per catch with two scores over 35 yards.

He’s also the answer to this trivia question: In the past 29 games, who is the only person with more than one touchdown catch in a game against Seattle’s vaunted “Legion of Boom” secondary?

“That would be me,” Wright said. “Just to have two in one game is an honor. But going against one of the best defensive secondaries in the league and Super Bowl champions? I would say that’s a memory I’ll never let go.”

Or taunt anyone with.

 

Mark Craig • mark.craig@startribune.com

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