With DUI charges dropped, Bucs’ Eric Wright moves on to preseason preparation

LOS ANGELES — "Everything will be said pretty soon. I can't really speak about it at all, but it will be [out] soon enough. Those types of things tend to work themselves out. Good, bad or indifferent, the information always seems to get out. So, things will be OK."

That's what Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Eric Wright told me last week, when he was busy training for the season at Performance Gaines, the new L.A. gym run by Travelle Gaines. He was talking about his felony DUI arrest on July 2, when he rear-ended a car in L.A. and refused to submit to a breathalyzer or field sobriety test. Late last week, it was revealed that the Los Angeles County District Attorney would not press charges against Wright.  Though he knew this when I talked with him, Wright kept it to himself and was far more focused on getting ready for a new season in a new city. Wright, who has played for the Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions, signed a five-year, $38 million contract with the Buccaneers this offseason. And judging from what I saw at Performance Gaines, Wright was doing everything he possibly could to live up to those numbers.

"He's a really good trainer, and he pays attention to everyone's personal needs," Wright said of Gaines, who had about 30 NFL players rolling in and out of his gym last week. "He does a great job in trying to keep the numbers down, as small as possible. He divides it up so that you get the same kind of attention as if he was just your personal trainer, even though there's 8 to 10 guys in here at a time."

Key to Wright's preparation in 2012 is the need for speed, and that's an unsung part of the offseason experience -- players change their circumstances, and the training has to change, as well.

"For me, I'm trying to be a little slimmer, and a lot more lean," Wright said. "Which is different for me, going into my sixth year. As opposed to the other years, when I was trying to pack on more weight, because it was hard for me to hold the weight. Now that I'm older, and Travelle's been through the offseasons with me, he's watched me grow as an athlete. Now that I can hold the weight, we keep it tight and slim, and that's a focus for me this offseason. Not to just pound on a bunch of weight, but to keep it tight and lean, and he's done a great job in adapting, because it hasn't been like that before."

And it isn't just about moving to a different part of the gym because your new position coach has you as more of a run-fit defender this season -- as Wright told me, there are purely football and purely athletic concerns to consider, and they will clash at times.

"First and foremost, the run tests are different, and that's what you're obligated to do when you show up to camp," he said. "Things change a little bit, and you have to cater your workouts to that -- being prepared for the football aspect, but also being prepared to take a run test. That's something totally different than being in football shape. So, it's sort of a task for Travelle to make sure he meshes both of those elements. You can run sprints and gassers, but you won't be ready to play football. And vice versa -- someone can do football-specific stuff, and not pass the conditioning test. it's a juggling act for Travelle to make sure he integrates both sides."

Offseason conditioning is different for everyone, and Wright could tell you as well as anyone what can happen in the five-week void between the last OTA and the first day of training camp. Getting in a gym with other NFL players isn't just about keeping in shape and making camp easier -- it's also about maintaining that locker-room vibe (one thing Gaines' clients' universally speak of when asked why they train with him), and making sure that the peer pressure stays high.

"Just this environment -- it's filled with guys who have that competitive spirit," Wright said. "You add that to the training program like this, and it just brings out the best in you. Everybody's focused on the same things, and that's personal and team goals. By the time you show up to camp from here, you've already been around guys who bust their tails, and you're better-prepared because you've been in this type of atmosphere.

"You see everybody here from different teams -- we know the kind of work that's being put in. The people that are here -- we care about making each other better, and ultimately, that's going to make you better because you're pushing that next person to be great just like you're pushing yourself to be great. We support each other and push each other, and then when it's time to go at it, we go at it."

Now that he's "going at it" with a different team -- a team led by a severe disciplinarian in new head coach Greg Schiano, and a team that invested heavily in his services -- Wright understands the responsibility to do things the right way.

"It's huge, because the focus is always going to be on what we feel it should be on. And that's not only on winning games, but pushing the Bucs' organization into an arena where we're looked at as one of the best. And that's on the field, off the field, in the community. We care about our perception, and I think that's the way it should be. You should have guys who set great examples, like [veteran cornerback] Ronde. A coach who holds us accountable. That's the way it should be, and that's the way it is. That's why I'm excited  to be a part of such a great organization."

Wright understands that his perception changed in some eyes because of the incident -- charges dropped or not. All he can do, he says, is prove that he's about the game in the one place where everybody can see him.

"At the end of the day, this game is about winning," he said. "It's about putting in the time and hard work to win. It's a rare breed of guys out there who don't care about the game. The perception is tough, but there's nothing you can do to shake that, other than to continue to put the best product out there on Sundays. Nobody's going to talk about the work we all put in here -- it's irrelevant to them, because it's our job and it's what they feel we should be doing. Anybody can go out there and have their own personal obstacles to overcome. Not just athletes, but in general. But we're in that spotlight, so things come out. People have an opinion, and they care enough to actually say something about it. That just comes with the territory. You know it, you understand it, and you work through it.

"And the end, though, nobody cares about anything but wins and losses in this game, and we have to do the best we can to prepare ourselves to get those wins."

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