Two of the no-shows at 49ers minicamp Tuesday – tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone – were expected. The third was not.
“Eric Wright is not here as well,” coach Jim Harbaugh said of the team’s backup cornerback. “I believe he’s making a decision not to play football.”
Later in the day, Wright, 28, filed retirement paperwork with the NFL and released a statement through the 49ers.
“Playing was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, but as I prepared for the coming season, I realized that I no longer had the same passion I once had for the game,” Wright said. “The San Francisco 49ers have given me an amazing opportunity to play for the team I grew up rooting for, and I owe the York family, my coaches, and my teammates tremendous gratitude.”
The 49ers signed Wright last year just weeks after a DUI arrest in Los Angeles, his second in as many years. The most recent charge ultimately was reduced to reckless driving. Wright pleaded no contest in December and was sentenced to three years’ probation, including six months of drug treatment with testing, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.
Wright had a scant role during the 2013 season, playing in seven games. With Carlos Rogers injured in January, it seemed Wright might be tapped to play nickel cornerback in the 49ers’ playoff opener against the pass-heavy Green Bay Packers. Instead, Wright tweaked his hamstring and the 49ers went with Perrish Cox.
Wright’s departure means Cox and second-year player Darryl Morris will fill in at nickel cornerback during minicamp. Top draft pick Jimmie Ward likely will take on that role during the season, but he is recovering from a foot injury.
The leading contenders to start at cornerback are Tramaine Brock and Chris Culliver. With Culliver practicing sparingly as he comes back from an anterior cruciate ligament tear, newcomer Chris Cook also has looked good while taking a lot of repetitions with the first-team defense. Cook took over for Wright early in OTAs last month after Wright appeared to sprain his ankle.
Teammates said there were no signs that Wright might stop playing.
“It’s a little surprising,” said safety Eric Reid, whose locker is next to Wright’s. “Maybe he’s dealing with some personal issues. I’m going to leave that up to him. I’m not going to invade his space.”
The 49ers have an open roster spot. Harbaugh said the team was happy with the depth at cornerback and wouldn’t say how the 49ers would fill the open spot. The team has not shown much interest in veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers, whom the Chiefs released last week.
Seifert joined the 49ers as secondary coach in 1980. In eight seasons as head coach, he posted a 98-30 record and won two Super Bowl titles.