MANKATO -- Jarius Wright, still puzzled about why he was utilized sparingly last season, is eager to prove in the coming weeks that he is still a difference-maker.
And if he isn’t given a chance to make a difference here, he is confident he will do it elsewhere.
“You can stop me if I’m wrong, but I know what type of player I am,” Wright said Thursday. “I can be a playmaker for this team or for any other team in the NFL.”
Last season, the veteran wide receiver didn’t make many plays for the punchless Vikings offense. Of course, a player actually has to be out there on the field to do that.
Wright, despite leading the Vikings in catches and receiving yards in 2014 and 2015 combined, was active for only eight games in 2016. In five of the games in which he did suit up, he played five or fewer snaps on offense. Wright totaled only 119 on the season, two fewer than left tackle Matt Kalil, who went on injured reserve after Week 2.
As a result, Wright finished with career lows in catches (11) and receiving yards (67).
“You bring up last year’s production, but that wasn’t my fault,” the 27-year-old said. “Any time I got a chance to play, I produced. I did what I’ve always done.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said the biggest reason why Wright played so little was that the team preferred to play Stefon Diggs in the slot, where Wright is most effective.
“He’s not a guy that we’ve forgotten about or anything,” Zimmer added.
Asked about the possibility of not making the 53-man roster, Wright said, “I love hearing it,” and added that “a lot of idiots” are questioning his standing on the team. But he is savvy enough to realize he is auditioning for other teams in preseason games should the Vikings, who reportedly shopped him last summer, decide to trade or cut him.
“I know what I can do,” said Wright, who is in his sixth camp with the Vikings.
Floyd ‘happy it’s all over’
Wide receiver Michael Floyd, speaking with Minnesota reporters Thursday for the first time since the NFL two weeks ago suspended him, said he was hoping for a lesser suspension than four games but has no choice but to accept the league’s decision.
“I’ve got to live with it and move forward,” said Floyd, who is eligible to participate in training camp and play in the team’s preseason games despite being suspended.
The suspension ended the legal saga resulting from his arrest for extreme DUI last year. The final twist was Floyd going back to prison for one day after violating the terms of his house arrest. He argued Kombucha tea resulted in three failed alcohol tests.
“I’m happy it’s all over and now I can just focus on football,” Floyd said.
Three banged up
Three key players on offense got knocked out of Thursday’s practice due to injury.
Left tackle Riley Reiff, the team’s prized free-agent addition, suffered an undisclosed injury that Zimmer later described on KFAN as a minor “twinge.” After Reiff departed practice, second-year player Rashod Hill came in to protect Sam Bradford’s blind side.
Moments later, running back Jerick McKinnon left practice with an undisclosed injury.
Late in practice, wide receiver Adam Thielen came up gimpy. But he stayed after practice to snag passes from the JUGS machine, so whatever ailed him was presumably minor.
It’s Waynes’ turn
Taking the field for the start of his third training camp, Trae Waynes was finally the undisputed starter at the outside cornerback spot opposite of Xavier Rhodes.
Waynes, the team’s first-round pick in 2015, was a reserve as a rookie and split time with Terence Newman at left cornerback a season ago. But Zimmer said that Waynes, who turned 25 this week, waited for his time with professionalism and poise.
“When he came in he had a lot to learn. I probably messed him up a little bit by trying to play him at nickel some,” he said. “He’s handled it really well. I think this will be a big year for him. Hopefully he comes in and he plays great. That’s what we’re expecting.”