CHARLOTTE – Wide receivers are saddled with the stigma of being on the selfish side – fair or not, wrong or right.
Not this Wright.
"I was raised to not be a pouter," said Jarius Wright, the free agent wide receiver who signed a three-year contract with the Panthers on Tuesday. Wright, who spent his first six NFL seasons as a quietly productive target for the Vikings, credits his humble upbringing by hard-working parents – an Arkansas state trooper and a schoolteacher – for his undemanding but determined demeanor.
"I hung out with the older kids. My brother is eight years older than me, so I really didn't get a chance to pout and cry because they would make fun of me if I did," Wright said. "I didn't want to be that kid."
Not to say that Wright doesn't want the ball. When it does come his way, he prides himself on not letting anything get in his way, earning monikers like "Mr. Third Down" and "Mr. Clutch" from teammates.
"When the ball is thrown to me – regardless of whether I have a defender right on me or if it's not a good throw, I usually come up with the ball – knock on wood."
The Panthers are counting on more of the same from Wright in the pairing of another reliable target with quarterback Cam Newton. In this case, the receiver also will be paired with an offensive system he knows well: New offensive coordinator Norv Turner held the same role with the Vikings for all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons and part of 2016. Wright was never the Vikings' top target but did amass 1,052 receiving yards in 34 games under Turner versus 987 yards in 45 games without him.
That was the jumping-off point for Wright's conference call with the local media.
On reuniting with Turner: "Just playing for Norv and knowing all the experience that Norv has in this league, he's been able to get it done as offensive coordinator pretty much anywhere he's gone. That's one thing that persuaded me. The other thing is that Norv also knows me; Norv knows what to expect from me. Us getting together and us teaming up, you definitely have a player and a coach that know each other."
On having his two most productive NFL seasons with Turner: "I thought about that, too when I was thinking about how I could fit into his system. He has a lot of different routes, a lot of different ways to get receivers the ball – reverses, screens, down-the-field things. Having Cam and his strong arm, I know he can get the ball downfield, and that's what Norv likes to do."
On making the most of relatively limited opportunities: "I know if I get in my own head, I won't be ready to catch those. If I get five passes, I won't be ready to catch those if I stay in my own head and complain and pout about not playing or not getting the balls that I deserve. I don't spend too much time on things like that. I continue to work on the future and getting my job done.
"That's just kind of my personality, who I've been my whole life. I've always been able to take full advantage of every opportunity. And being in the NFL, you understand that at any time your number can be called, and if you're not ready to play, you will look bad."
On his relationship with Newton: "I don't know him that well. I've had a chance to play against him three or four times now, so I know he's one heck of a player. What he brings to the game – whether he's throwing the ball or running the ball – is something I definitely want to pair my talents up with. I think the sky is the limit."
On being released by Minnesota: "After I was released, I wasn't too worried about it. I have full belief in my talents and full belief in what I can do as a player. I knew at the end of the day all I needed was an opportunity to prove myself. I knew I would be playing somewhere. I didn't know where. But whenever teams could call my agents and check on me, the Panthers were one of the first calls."
On the current crop of Carolina receivers: "I think very highly of these receivers. I wouldn't come to a receiving corps that I thought was kind of deflated. From what I've seen on film, they have a great group of receivers. They have two good veteran receivers with me and Torrey (Smith). Torrey has played eight (seasons), and this is my seventh - to add two veteran receivers to a room that is already great."
On playing in the slot: "With Norv, I don't know. I played a little outside and inside. Norv does a great job of moving guys around. We have a lot of guys on this team that can do a lot of things. Norv puts guys in the best situations to make plays. To answer your question, I think I'll play a little bit of both."
On teaming up with former Vikings teammates Captain Munnerlyn and Matt Kalil: "Captain is still one of my good buddies. We still talk all the time. Having Matt Kalil and Captain here, of course they were my teammates and you always want to look for friends. It gives you someone to hang out with initially."
On what he's looking forward to about Charlotte: "The weather. That will be number one. I hear about how nice it is all the time. Riding around Charlotte today, it really felt like being back in Arkansas. It really felt like home. It has a real homey feeling. I love that about Charlotte."
On being a successful third down receiver: "Besides just athletic ability, I like to call it FBI – my football intelligence. Just being in the right place at the right time, knowing your quarterback, knowing how they like to throw the ball and where they like to put the ball. Being on the same page with your quarterback – being able to find an open spot in the zone or if it's man coverage, keep running. My football intelligence has definitely helped me become a seven-year player in the NFL."
Check out photos of Carolina's new wide receiver during his NFL and college career.