There were three no-shows for the 49ers mandatory minicamp today. Two of them – tight end Vernon Davis and guard Alex Boone – were expected. The third was not.
“Eric Wright is not here as well,” Jim Harbaugh said today of the team's backup cornerback. “I believe he's making a decision not to play football, as I understand it. Have not talked to him.”
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 pled no contest in December and was sentenced to 36 months' 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 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 in Green Bay. Instead, the 49ers went with Perrish Cox for that role.
Wright's departure means that 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 still 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 ACL tear, newcomer Chris Cook also has taken a lot of repetitions with the first-team defense, and he has looked good. Cook took over for Wright early in OTAs after Wright appeared to sprain his ankle.
Teammates said they were surprised to hear that Wright, a seven-year veteran, was contemplating not 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.”
Said Morris: “Yeah, it’s a bit of a surprise. But he’s got to do what’s best for him and his family. And, you know, that’s one of my really good friends on the team. I respect it. I’m sure he put some major thought into it, and that it’s what’s best for him and his family.”
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 49ers have not shown much interest in veteran cornerback Brandon Flowers, whom the Chiefs released last week.
“More information to follow,” Harbaugh said. “Won't really speculate on what we're going to do. We'll have an open spot and we'll do what's best for our team.”