A couple of weeks after he was beaten for two touchdowns in his Ravens' debut last October against the San Francisco 49ers, cornerback Shareece Wright stood up in front of his teammates and promised them it wouldn't happen again.
"Getting released from a team and not playing, and coming in and going against that team and giving up two touchdowns and having a short week, it was tough. I didn't complain and I stood up but that game wasn't who I was," Wright said today. "I just wanted to let my team know who I am and what I stand for as a football player. Not saying that they were doubting me or anything after that, I just wanted to make it clear to them who I am as a football player and what I stand for, and how serious I take this job."
Wright bounced back from his rocky debut, which included getting beat for a 76-yard Colin Kaepernick to Torrey Smith touchdown pass, and was one of the most consistent Ravens' defensive players over the final eight weeks of the season.
He was rewarded Monday with a three-year deal, signed just two days before the 28-year-old was due to hit the free agent market. His new contract is reportedly worth $16 million and it includes $5 million in guaranteed money.
"Of course, you always want more. I had to call my agent and I had to tell him, 'Look, this is something that we knew if we can get this much, we'll come back here,' because it's more than the money," Wright said. "You see a lot of players leave teams that they were with to chase the money and their careers don't really go the direction that they thought it would. I knew to come back here with a team that knows me and I got to know them, I knew it was important.
"This is a start for my career in the sense of my contract. I want more but I have to earn it. I have to go out there and make more plays and get more turnovers and just solidify myself more as that player."
Aside from the debut, Wright made a strong first impression on his new team after he was released by the 49ers. In 11 games with the Ravens in 2015, including seven starts, he finished with 40 tackles and five passes defended.
Over the past eight weeks of the season, the Ravens had the NFL's top-ranked passing defense, and both coach John Harbaugh and defensive coordinator Dean Pees attributed some of the improvement to Wright's presence in the lineup. The veteran started the last five games with the team.
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"That guy right there is probably the most consistent or one of the most consistent players we had on defense, especially the second half of the year after he got here," Pees said. "When John talks about the attention to detail that he does, the work that he does, never says boo. Just comes to work, does what he's supposed to do. What else can you ask in a football player than that?
"I am so excited to have him back. It helps us on our defensive scheme just tremendously to have him back along with some of the other corners and guys that we've had. Hopefully, we can start next year the way we ended this last year on defense."
Harbaugh was also effusive in his praise of Wright.
"As a man, as a family man, he's what we're all about," Harbaugh said. "Nobody works harder, nobody's more dedicated to his craft, nobody spends more time watching tape, nobody cares more about doing things the right way in terms of how hard he plays. He's willing to be a tackler—obviously he's a corner, that's big. But paying attention to detail and technique, he does that as well as any corner I've been around in all these years in the National Football League. He's just the kind of guy we want to continue to build our defense with."
For Wright, the new contract gives him a more extended opportunity to play alongside his best friend and former Colton High (Calif.) teammate Jimmy Smith. Wright informed several of his Ravens' teammates in a group chat Sunday that he was re-signing with the team, and didn't realize that Smith wasn't part of the chat.
When Smith called him later and learned that Wright was heading to Baltimore to take a physical and finalize his contract, he got on his close friend for not telling him the news earlier. Both players, however, were excited that they'll remain teammates.
"Fourteen years of playing since we were in ninth grade at high school, playing football together and both playing corner. To get us together now, it's something that you can't really buy." Wright said. "You can't really get that in too many places."