Scooby Wright headed to the Arizona Cardinals
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - As the 2016 Draft was winding down, only several selections left, former Arizona linebacker Scooby Wright and his family were talking to the Arizona Cardinals about quickly signing a free agent deal.
As those conversations were taking place, with Cardinals coach Bruce Arians and Wright's agent Drew Rosenhaus in the mix, the Cleveland Browns selected Scooby with the fourth-to-last pick in the final round.
But it's funny how things work out.
The Cardinals, in need of another inside linebacker (Deone Bucannon suffered a high ankle sprain on Sunday), are expected to announce the signing of Wright off the Browns' practice squad and, per league rules, add him to the 53-man roster. It's possible Wright could play Sunday in a home game against the New Orleans Saints.
Scooby flew out of Cleveland Tuesday morning to Phoenix.
"That's Scooby's dream, playing for Coach Arians," Wright's father, Phil Wright, told TucsonNewsNow.com Monday night.
"On draft day, we were on the phone with Coach Arians, and he's like, 'Scooby, you're my dog.' Scooby was like, 'I want to play for you so bad.'"
Wright was in a camp battle to make the Browns roster and made a successful case in the final preseason game with a fourth-down stuff at the goal line.
He was not active for Cleveland's first two games and then was waived as the team needed roster spots for other positions. Wright cleared waivers, though, and the Browns signed him to their practice squad and took the unusual step of giving him his full salary, about $26,500 per week, as opposed to the typical practice squad weekly compensation of about $7,000.
The Browns never brought up Wright from the practice squad through an 0-13 start.
"It was very tough for him emotionally, but you know how Scooby is, he works hard every single day," Phil Wright said.
"He said, 'Yeah, I don't get to play, but I got so much better. I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I'm ready.'"
Wright also got to learn the 3-4 defense in Cleveland, a departure from the 3-3-5 he played in with the Wildcats. The Cardinals also run a 3-4.
The Cardinals in November lost linebacker Gabe Martin to a season-ending knee injury. At that time, they elevated Zaviar Gooden from their practice squad. The other inside linebackers on the roster are starter Kevin Minter and backup Sio Moore. Gooden and Moore were used in Bucannon's place after last week's injury.
Wright was the centerpiece of Arizona's Pac-12 South title in 2014, winning the Pac-12 Pat Tillman Defensive Player of the Year award, the Nagurski and Bednarik awards as the nation's top defender and the Lombardi Award, given to the top lineman or linebacker. He made 163 tackles, including 29 for loss and 14 sacks.
But the 2015 season went askew from the start. He suffered a meniscus injury in his left knee in the season opener and then a sprained right foot in the fourth game upon his return to the field, Sept. 26. He rehabbed until the postseason, when he made 15 tackles, including 3.5 for loss and two sacks, in a win over New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.
"Scooby never redshirted at Arizona, so we talked about it and I told him, 'This was like you're redshirt year,'" Phil said about Scooby being on the Browns' practice squad. "He got to sit back, get better, visualize things ... it's perfect for him.
"You gotta love the Browns for taking a chance on him and making him better. But he had to go somewhere and get an opportunity. He's just so excited and I'm just so happy for him.
"It's like an early Christmas present."