Eric Wright is not facing an 8-game suspension, unless something crazy happens

Jeff Zelevansky

It's comforting to think that Eric Wright wasn't going to be a contributor for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year if they even kept him, but that's a bunch of nonsense.

We have a new myth to justify trading Eric Wright. JoeBucsFan claims that Eric Wright is facing an "eight-game suspension as a repeat offender". Unless JoeBucsFan has any information I don't (which is possible), this claim seems ludicrous to me. Here's why:

  • Eric Wright is in principle not a repeat offender. He was arrested for DUI last season, yes, but he was never convicted. The charges were dropped, no league discipline was handed down, etc. This is his first DUI offense as far as the NFL is concerned.
  • While Wright ran into some suspicion in college, he was never convicted. In fact, charges weren't even filed. That can't realistically be used as a basis to see him as a repeat offender, even if you ignore the issue of those problems pre-dating his NFL career.
  • The four-game suspension under the PED policy does not count. That policy and the substance abuse policy are seen as completely disparate policies under the CBA, and the NFL does not view a first-time substance abuse violation as a repeat offense regardless of the amount of preceding PED violations.
  • The NFL has historically viewed DUIs as substance abuse issues, and first-time substance abuse policy violations are not grounds for suspension, but grounds for entrance into an expanded drug testing program. However, this may not be the case anymore.
  • According to a 2012 Pro Football Talk article, though, DUI punishments are handled differently. At the time a first offense was punished by a fine of two game checks, although the NFL wanted to move to a two-game suspension with the NFLPA resisting. If the NFLPA has relented, Wright might be suspended -- for two games.
  • The NFL could also suspend Wright under the personal conduct policy, as they did when Vincent Jackson (!) was popped a second time for a DUI back in 2010, but there's little reason for them to treat Wright differently from any other first-time DUI offender.
  • Even if the NFL does find reason to suspend Wright, an 8-game suspension seems extremely unlikely. Vincent Jackson got three games after his second DUI arrest. Last year's DUI policy didn't even allow a single game suspension for a first-time offense. That may have changed since, but to an 8-game suspension? Not likely.

This doesn't make Eric Wright an angel. Obviously, he's run into minor and major trouble repeatedly with the Buccaneers. They got rid of him not because he was a bad player (he was starting during offseason workouts), but because they didn't see him fitting the culture. It made them a worse football team, but that's the decision they made.

But a looming, eight-game suspension? Unless JoeBucsFan has some information I don't, that's nonsense. Eight-game suspensions are not handed out much at all, and they're certainly not handed for a player's first DUI conviction -- if he's even convicted. He hasn't even been charged at this point, after all.

As for the idea that the San Francisco 49ers didn't know about any of this: they did, as the Sacramento Bee points out.

Crushing all hope

Some fans have a tendency to see everything as positively as possible for their teams. After all, positivity gives rise to hope. No one likes to lose hope, because then you turn into a Browns fan and that's no fun for anyone. But I don't like false narratives, and I will therefore destroy them. I am the hopecrusher.

Which is why I'm crushing that narrative about Eric Wright. The 49ers weren't duped into taking him on -- they knew exactly what they were getting. They only gave up a conditional late-round pick, after all. You can't justify this trade on any of those grounds. If you want to justify it, you just have to believe that they did the right thing by getting rid of a player who kept getting into trouble. Not because he was about to be suspended, or because Leonard Johnson was better (Wright was ahead of him and Banks in all offseason workouts), but because they just didn't want him around.

It's the same thing we saw happening when Michael Bennett was allowed to leave in free agency, and he then turned out to need shoulder surgery. We had a perfectly functioning narrative before: the Bucs wanted to give Da'Quan Bowers more of an opportunity and thought that Adrian Clayborn would return to form after missing most of last season with a knee injury. Retaining Bennett for a part-time role would be hard to justify given the money they would have to pay him.

But then the shoulder thing surfaced, and the narrative in the minds of some Buccaneers fans shifted. Suddenly, he was an injury-prone wreck and the Seattle Seahawks were getting damaged goods. Oh, and Bennett wasn't that good anyway.

That's a bunch of nonsense, of course. The shoulder surgery was minor and likely didn't play a big role. He has since participated fully in the Seahawks' offseason workouts, and there's really no reason to believe that it'll limit him going forward. The Seahawks signed a quality, versatile defensive end because the Bucs wanted to give their drafted players a bigger chance. That's it.

And Eric Wright? He ran into another off-field issue, and the Bucs were done. That's all there is to it.

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