Going wrong for Browns' Wright
It's gotten so bad, he's being called Eric Wrong.
Browns cornerback Eric Wright is the first to admit he's not having nearly the season he hoped. Burned for several big plays and touchdowns, including a winning TD in overtime last week against the New York Jets, Wright has become a target for some Cleveland fans.
They want him benched - or worse.
Wright's under attack, but he's not running.
''I have a responsibility to this team to be a certain type of player, and I've let my team down time and time again,'' he said Wednesday. ''Obviously, I have to play better.''
Late in overtime Sunday, Wright got beat on an inside slant by Santonio Holmes, who took the short pass, stepped away from Wright's lame tackling attempt and darted past two other Browns for a 37-yard score, giving the Jets their second straight OT win.
It was the latest gaffe in a season of errors for Wright, a 2007 second-round pick who has never been lacking for confidence but seems to be playing scared. Baltimore's Anquan Boldin fried Wright for three TDs, and he was responsible for two against Pittsburgh.
The critics have been lining up for weeks. Their legions have grown.
On Wednesday, Wright found himself surrounded in the middle of Cleveland's locker room answering questions about his struggles and defending his reputation. As a few of his teammates walked over to survey the media mob, Wright, backed up against a pillar, never ducked a single probe.
He accepted blame. The only thing Wright disputed was that his performance has been consistently poor.
''I don't feel like it's necessarily been a streak,'' he said. ''The Baltimore game opened the floodgates for us having this type of discussion. That's the worst game I've ever played in my career. It's more of me not doing what I'm supposed to do mentally than physically. But I feel throughout the nine games, I've had more better games than bad games.
''But obviously when you have certain big plays, which you will have playing cornerback, it's going to be looked at in a different way.''
In recent days, local sports radio has been crammed with chatter about Wright. Outraged callers have screamed for coach Eric Mangini to sit Wright in favor of rookie Joe Haden. The disdain for Wright has extended into social networking with Twitter users bombarding his personal account with messages, some of them vulgar.
Wright countered by tweeting from the Bible: ''And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the 3rd day he shall rise again'' Mark 10:34.
It hasn't all been Wright's fault.
On a few of the TDs, it appeared he was looking for help that never arrived. Also, there have been communication breakdowns in a secondary breaking in rookie safety T.J. Ward.
Wright isn't pointing fingers.
''Certain plays just happen,'' he said. ''You don't want them to happen, but they do. There have been a number of times where I just didn't do what I'm supposed to do. There have been other times where things didn't pan out the way I expected it to happen. Obviously, it's a team game, you play the game with your teammates and sometimes things land on you that are really not your fault.''
Mangini hasn't lost faith in Wright, at least not publicly.
By the very nature of their position, cornerbacks are on an island. Any play that comes their way is magnified - sometimes good, sometimes bad.
''When you make mistakes, they're a lot more visible,'' Mangini said when asked about Wright's struggles. ''He had a really outstanding year last year and there's been times this year where we've seen that level of play. That's what I expect from him each week.''
Mangini said there has been no dropoff in Wright's effort or competitiveness at practice. He expects Wright to correct his mistakes and learn from them.
Wright's teammates don't doubt his ability or that he'll rebound.
''Eric Wright is a great player,'' said cornerback Sheldon Brown, who expects to play this week in Jacksonville after suffering a ''stinger'' against the Jets and did not practice. ''We as DBs all have our moments when things don't go right, that's just part of the game. You define a champion by how they bounce back from it, period. You can't control the past.
''I think he's mentally still in it. He comes to work, you don't hear him say much. He's studying film, working hard and being a great teammate in the locker room. That's all you can ask.''
Safety Mike Adams insists he wouldn't trade Wright for any other cornerback in the NFL. Wright appreciates the support.
''They have my back,'' he said. ''Until I can look into one of these guys' eyes and they look at me in my face and say, `I don't believe in you anymore,' I'm good. That hasn't happened yet. I'm going to keep pushing and keep working.''