|Wright at home in New England||08.30.10 at 11:48 pm ET|
FOXBORO — When you watch Mike Wright work, you can see why Bill Belichick likes him on his team.
You can also see a lot of similarities with another Boston athlete – Kevin Youkilis.
Both are from Cincinnati. Both attended high school there and both stayed close to home when going off to college. Youkilis attended Sycamore High School while Wright at Purcell Marian, played football in the high school conference one on-line publication rated as the ‘best high school football conference in America’ last season.
Both came attended the University of Cincinnati, where each made a name for themselves as self-made athletes who had talent but even more work ethic.
Everyone in New England who has paid attention to the Red Sox knows how the hard weight training and conditioning work has paid off for Youkilis. Now, Patriots fans are getting the same vibe watching Wright. And so is his head coach.
Belichick has entrusted Wright with the responsibility of playing the middle and left end of the Patriots defensive line, trying to make the most of Wright’s power and quickness.
“He’s worked very hard,” Belichick said. “Mike is a very diligent offseason worker. He’s one of those guys who’s always in pretty good shape. He trains hard. He works hard. He’s tough. We’ve asked him to do a lot. He’s played in the kicking game. He’s covered kicks for us and things like that. He’s played on third down. He’s played nose. He’s played end. He’s played inside and outside on a four man line.”
Listed at 6-foot-4, Wright still has a wrestler’s build. His strong, broad shoulders make him a beast to contain. He’s hard to get a hold of, and has shown the ability to routinely shed a block and get to the quarterback when given the chance. Before last season, Richard Seymour was dealt to Oakland so Wright saw more snaps on third down as an extra body that could pressure the QB from the inside and help stop the run.
“He’s a very versatile player, athletic enough to do some of the more skilled things,” Belichick said. “Powerful enough to stand up against big guys or more than one guy, double teams, things like that. He’s got a good set of skills. He’s worked hard. He’s very conscientious. He really wants to do the right thing. He takes the extra time to learn and get it right. He’s really, from where he’s started, he’s really had a good career to this point.
“And he continues to work hard and build on it. Every year, he becomes more dependable, more versatile, a guy who has more experience, and uses it. Some guys gain experience and it doesn’t really seem to help. He’s a guy that gains experience and doesn’t repeat a lot of mistakes from previous years or situations.”
This summer, Ty Warren was lost for the season after being placed on the injured reserve list with a hip injury.
With the Patriots looking for replacements for names like Seymour and Warren alongside Vince Wilfork, Wright has had the door of opportunity swung wide open. Belichick was asked what he thinks of having a defensive lineman who is shorter and quicker play alongside Wilfork on the defensive front.
Belichick, as always, added the appropriate perspective on the 6-foot-4, 285-pound Wright.
“Well, there are a lot of guys who are smaller than Vince,” Belichick quipped. “He’s not a small guy now. He’s an explosive player. He’s strong and he’s explosive. His weight room numbers and his test numbers are competitive with probably most our linemen, but I’d say probably most good linemen in the league.”
Not bad considering Wright was signed by the Patriots after going undrafted in the 2005 NFL Draft. He made the Patriots’ roster out of training camp and played in 13 games in his 2005 rookie season. He was placed on injured reserve in January, 2007, and missed two playoff games that year. In the second week of the 2006 season, Wright made his first career start, and made four overall starts on the year. He led the team once in tackles and twice in special teams tackles in 2006.
Wright played in nine games in 2007 before being placed on injured reserve in December. He returned in 2008 to play in all 16 games, starting two. He finished the season with a then career-high 2.5 sacks and 33 tackles. Wright took his resume to the free market, hoping to land a full-time gig but no offer was forthcoming. So, he gladly re-signed with the Patriots, agreeing on a four-year contract in March 2009.
Last year, Wright played in all 16 games for the Patriots, starting nine. He finished the season with 35 tackles and five sacks.
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