That little kid who once was considered too small to play Pee Wee football landed a nice, big NFL contract extension on Thursday.
Vikings receiver Jarius Wright, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012, signed a four-year, $14.8 million deal with $7 million guaranteed. With one more year left on his rookie deal, Wright is under contract through the 2019 season.
“For me the timing was kind of important, but at the same time, I’m going to play football regardless if I got a contract or not,” Wright said. “I wasn’t going to create any distractions, and I was going to be the same leader on and off the field. But I do have a lot of relief.”
Wright is coming off career highs in receptions (42) and receiving yards (588). He also had two touchdown catches, including an 87-yarder in overtime to beat the Jets. This year, his role has increased as the No. 3 receiver, replacing Greg Jennings as the slot guy.
“Jarius has been a key member of our offense since we drafted him,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. “His commitment to this team, hard work and leadership in the WR room are several of the intangibles that he brings. … This extension stays true to our philosophy of drafting young talent, developing them in our system and rewarding their success.”
Coach Mike Zimmer said Wright is an example of the “guys we like to have here. He’s a great kid. He works real hard. He’s smart. He’s a great program guy. And he makes plays.”
Wright, meanwhile, couldn’t help but reminisce after earning his newfound wealth.
“Growing up I was always told, ‘You’re too small. You couldn’t do it,’ ” Wright said. “For me to prove everybody wrong and for me to help everybody that was with me on my side, I just appreciate everybody who stood behind me.”
Starting MLB? Shhh
Evidence from the preseason and the limited portions of practice open to reporters strongly suggests that Gerald Hodges has won the starting middle linebacker position in the 4-3 base defense.
So, Zim, is that the case?
“I don’t know,” he said.
Well, is rookie Eric Kendricks still in the mix?
“I don’t know,” Zimmer said. “I understand you guys have got to ask these questions, but I’m not going to tell San Francisco who we’re playing, who is starting or anything like that. It’s just the way it is.
“If I could have waited another six days, I would have held off on [center John] Sullivan [who is out for at least eight weeks after back surgery], but I couldn’t. No offense.”
Heads up, zebras
Zimmer was asked about 49ers receiver Anquan Boldin, a 13-year veteran known for his physicality and ability to go up and rip passes away from defenders.
Perhaps in a subtle message for the gameday officials to watch out for offensive pass interference, Zimmer said: “Yeah, he’ll kind of shove you out of the way, too, sometimes. Don’t tell the officials I said that.”
Berger center first
Joe Berger, who will start at center in place of the injured Sullivan (back) for at least the first eight weeks of the season, had to remind some reporters that center is his natural position.
The versatile 11-year veteran has started 18 games since joining the Vikings in 2011. Seventeen of them have been at either left or right guard, including nine last year at right guard.
But Berger actually has started more games at center (21), including 14 with the Dolphins in 2010.
Asked if he’s comfortable making the pre-snap protection calls, Berger said: “That was my position in Miami before I came here. You guys have seen me more at guard on game day, but in my mind I’ve been more of a center than anything else.”
Fullback Zach Line (knee), tight end Chase Ford (shoulder) and defensive tackle Shamar Stephen (knee) were limited in practice, while rookie tight end MyCole Pruitt (ankle) was a full participant.