MANKATO, Minn. (AP) Jarius Wright has entered the final year of his rookie contract with the Minnesota Vikings, with three productive seasons on his resume as a fourth-round draft pick.
There's more depth on the roster at wide receiver now. As always in the NFL, there's no guarantee that Wright will get to re-up and continue his career with the Vikings. He's grateful for what he's accomplished and experienced already, particularly considering what happened to his close friend, Greg Childs, whose injuries have sidelined his pro career.
''I'm carrying the torch for all of Arkansas, for my hometown, for my family and friends,'' Wright said. ''He's a family friend. He's from my hometown. He's from Arkansas. So you know I'm carrying the torch for him and the rest of my people.''
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Wright and Childs have been tight since elementary school in Warren, Arkansas, a relationship that stretched on to the state university where they each became standout wide receivers for the Razorbacks. The Vikings made sure the connection continued professionally, when they drafted both of them in 2012, even in the same round.
Exactly three years ago, their paths diverged with one fateful step by Childs during an intra-squad scrimmage just a week into training camp. He tore the patellar tendon in each knee, as rare, freaky and devastating an injury an NFL player can endure.
Childs gave the comeback his best, and the Vikings kept him on the roster the following season to allow him to rehabilitate at the team facility. He was released on March 6, 2014, less than two years after he was drafted. Childs had an unsuccessful tryout with the Jacksonville Jaguars. He spent a brief time on the roster of the Toronto Argonauts in the CFL.
Then he signed with another CFL club, the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, a couple of months ago. But Childs tore his Achilles tendon in training camp there.
''You do get a better appreciation for things like that, not only him, but for other people not getting the chance to do what you do every day, knowing how bad they would love to do it,'' Wright said. ''Especially having a friend that went down on such a tragic injury and was never really able to bounce back and never actually played in a game and never fully got to live out his dream.''
Wright was asked whether he has considered advising to Childs to call it a career so he can still live comfortably later in life.
''Sometimes you want to say it, but at the same time you know his dreams and you know what he wants to get accomplish and you don't want to break somebody's dreams,'' Wright said. ''He felt like he could still do it, so I didn't want to tell him he couldn't.''
Wright caught 42 passes for 588 yards last season, both career highs. That included a game-winning 87-yard catch and run for a score in overtime against the New York Jets and an eight-reception, 132-yard performance in a victory over the Atlanta Falcons. He's learned how to use his body more effectively as a blocker, a responsibility that will remain as important as ever this year with Adrian Peterson in the backfield again.
Only Mike Wallace, acquired via trade from the Miami Dolphins, has stronger credentials than Wright among wide receivers on this roster. Wallace is in his first months learning the offense. Wright also has a niche that only rookie Stefan Diggs, a fifth-round draft pick from Maryland, is suited to fill.
''We keep working him outside, but we know he's got big value for us in the slot as well,'' coach Mike Zimmer said.
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