EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Jarius Wright is happy. No doubt.
He's also likely to remain humble and hardworking despite receiving an earful from teammates at least for the next few days, at least until they open the regular season at San Francisco on Monday Night Football.
The 2012 fourth-round pick on Thursday signed a contract extension to remain a Viking for several years as he's preparing for the final year of his rookie contract.
Wright didn't publicly thump his chest or pound a table about posting career highs of 42 catches and 588 yards in 2014. Instead, he trusted, continued to work out hard and exercised patience.
The Vikings don't announce terms of contracts, but it's well advertised around the NFL that rookies drafted after the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement have potential to bank bigger bucks if they receive a second NFL contract.
"I always focus on football, and that's the first thing, but inside, it's definitely, I get a chance to come back and be with all my great teammates," Wright said. "It shows me how they feel about me and it's just a great feeling to know an NFL team wants you to come back and play for them.
The ink had barely dried when the extension was announced to the media. Shortly after, Wright faced cameras and held up to jokes from teammates about his bumped up pay.
But in that moment, which he called "a dream come true," he thought of two groups of people who helped him fulfill it after starting in his Arkansas hometown of about 6,000.
One was the naysayers, the "you're too small"-ers; the other group was "everybody that was with me on my side."
Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Wright has been a key member of the offense since he was selected in 2012.
"We felt it was necessary to secure his future with our organization," Spielman said. "His commitment to this team, hard work and leadership in the wide receivers room are several of the intangibles that he brings to our club on a daily basis, and we're excited for his future with the Vikings. With the help of receivers coach George Stewart, Jarius has greatly improved since coming to Minnesota. This extension stays true to our philosophy of drafting young talent, developing them in our system and rewarding their success."
Wright said he was grateful for the developmental experiences he's received at the Vikings under receivers coach George Stewart, former receivers Percy Harvin and Greg Jennings and current teammate Mike Wallace, "who's been to where I'm trying to go. That was very helpful for me."
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer said the extension rewarded the work that Wright has done.
"Well he's a great kid, he works really hard, he's smart," Zimmer said. "He's a great program-guy, the guys that we like to have here and he makes plays. He's fast, I think he's got a chance to have a very good future."
Wright also quickly developed chemistry with quarterback Teddy Bridgewater last season. Bridgewater posted a passer rating of 128.6 when targeting Wright in 2014, completing 36 of 46 passes (78.3 percent) for 524 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
"I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing, and that's playing hard and making plays," Wright said. "It should be a fun year."
Unfortunately for the Vikings, the other biggest headline out of Winter Park Thursday was that John Sullivan has been placed on the Reserve/Injured — designated to return list. You can read more about the rules regarding reserve lists here, but the skinny post is that Sullivan is prohibited from practicing for at least six weeks and playing in a game for at least eight weeks.
Sullivan, who underwent a lumbar microdiscectomy on Wednesday, released the following statement:
As a player you never want to miss time. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your absence, you feel guilty about not fulfilling your responsibility to your teammates, coaches, organization and fans by giving it your absolute best out on the field every Sunday. While I'm incredibly disappointed that I'll be missing the first portion of the 2015 season, I have full faith in the roster that our coaches and front office have put together. Joe Berger will step in and do a great job leading our offensive line, protecting the best young quarterback in football and opening up holes in the running game. In the meantime, I promise I'll be doing everything I can to recover and I'll be ready as soon as humanly possible to return to the field and help the Vikings win their first Super Bowl Championship. Skol!
— John Sullivan
Zimmer said Sullivan progressed to a degree in the recovery process, but "couldn't get over the hump."
"He's had a herniated disk, he had two epidurals," Zimmer said. "We knew what it was. Typically a lot of guys will recover after one epidural, sometimes they recover after two epidurals and after his second epidural, he was doing better and we were hopeful that he would get over the hump and he just never did."
As Sullivan mentioned, Berger is in line to replace him as the Vikings starting center in what will be Berger's 100th NFL game and 39th career start. Bridgewater said Berger showed versatility and played well last season.
"He can play center, he can play guard, probably can even play tackle," Bridgewater said. "We're going to miss Sully [John Sullivan], but with Joe, the offense isn't going to change, just different personnel. I think Joe is going to do a good job for us."
The offensive line on opening weekend will have different starters at four of the five OL spots than last season's opener. Matt Kalil is back at left tackle, Brandon Fusco has moved from right to left guard. Mike Harris is at right guard, and rookie T.J. Clemmings is at right tackle, where veteran Phil Loadholt suffered a season-ending injury against Tampa Bay in the preseason.
When asked his concern level, Zimmer said, "zero, no concern at all."
"We expect guys to go in there and play. They'll do a good job," Zimmer said. "Berger has played for a long time. We had talked about doing a lot of different things when Sullivan was healthy, moving Berger to possibly guard instead of Mike Harris, so actually this all worked out pretty good the way it ended up happening because Harris, he got all of the reps at right guard, Berger has been getting all the reps at center, which is basically his natural position."
Primed for primetime
It's been quite a year for Bridgewater, who was inserted into action last season as a reserve at New Orleans in Week 3. Bridgewater then started 12 of the final 13 games and shredded franchise records. Now, he's the undisputed starter and is looking forward to opening up in primetime. Bridgewater talked about the different feel to this year's opener.
"As a little child, you grow up watching *Monday Night Football *and to be starter Week One, Monday night, it's a great feeling," Bridgewater said. "Last year, I was a backup Week 1, but I still approached the week as if I was a starter. This year, it's a little different being the starter, but the approach hasn't changed at all."
One notable difference for Bridgewater will be taking the field for the first time in a game with Adrian Peterson, which could benefit both players this season. Mike Wobschall and I discussed how in the most recent installment of 2-Point Conversations.
The Vikings first injury report of the 2015 season is available here. Chase Ford, Zach Line and Shamar Stephen were limited. Zach Line was a full participant.