Wright envisions first-ballot HOF career as ‘security' for Fields


LAKE FOREST – Darnell Wright had trouble finding words after the Bears selected him with the No. 10 overall pick in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. But that doesn’t mean the gravity of the moment -- and the work that awaits -- was lost on the Bears’ new right tackle.

“I embrace it,” Wright told NBC Sports Chicago about the expectations that come with being a top-10 pick. “You want to be in a position where a lot is asked of you because you feel like you can rise to the challenge. I honestly do better when I’m in situations where I have to rise to the challenge.

“There’s going to be a lot asked of you but embrace it because if there’s not a lot asked of you then they probably don’t think you are deserving. What did Spider-Man say? With great power comes great responsibility.”

Wright sold himself to general manager Ryan Poles, head coach Matt Eberflus, and offensive line coach Chris Morgan with dominating tape against Alabama’s Will Anderson, an impressive Senior Bowl and combine, and the mental fortitude to push through a grueling pre-draft workout led by Morgan.

“I’m never going to quit anything,” Wright said of the workout. “It made me … not so learn about myself. I always knew there’s never been 一 nobody’s going to make me quit.”

The expectations placed on Wright will be immense for several reasons.

He’s the first first-round pick of the Poles-Eberflus era. The Bears’ regime believes he has the talent, character, motor, and desire to be great they need in a foundational pillar of the rebuild.

“It means the world to me,” Wright told NBC Sports Chicago about being Poles’ first first-round pick. “When somebody has confidence in you, it breathes confidence into yourself. I’m happy that they think I can be a guy to come in and help them. It gives me confidence.”

That pressure Wright faces in Year 1 will be ratcheted up after the abysmal performance the Bears’ offensive line put on tape last season. Per NFL standard statistics, the Bears gave up 58 sacks in 2022. That ranked fourth behind the Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, and Los Angeles Rams. Per Pro Football Focus, the Bears gave up 167 pressures, 112 of which came in true-pass sets.

The right tackle combination of Larry Borom and Riley Reiff accounted for 32 pressures and eight sacks.

The 2023 season is a make-or-break one for quarterback Justin Fields. Poles and Eberflus must get a complete evaluation of their young signal-caller this season to know if he’s the guy they want to build around.

Fields must make significant strides as a passer in Year 3. The Bears bolstered his supporting cast to make sure he has everything he needs to make a third-year leap.

Wright knows he’s a big piece of the Bears’ plan to help Fields go from electric playmaker to top-flight quarterback. But Wright doesn’t blink when confronted with the critical role he’ll play in Fields’ prove-it season,

“That’s my job. That’s what I do,” Wright told NBC Sports Chicago. “If you hire security to keep you out the club, then I’m going to keep you out the club.

“He’s an amazing quarterback. If anything goes wrong, he’s out of there. And he can get out of there! I appreciate that. But I want to make it as smooth sailing as possible for him so he feels like he doesn’t have to go anywhere.”

Take away the 6-foot-5, 330-pound frame, and Wright is just a 21-year-old kid living out his dream. He has a big smile and oozes exuberance and excitement.

That’s off the field.

On the field, the Bears drafted Wright to send a message to opposing teams.

“He's a tone-setter,” Poles said. “He plays with an edge to him, which we love. We want more of. He’s a nasty dude who when you watch the tape and are like, alright, we’ve got to play the Bears next week, you go – OK, this is going to be a long day.”

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Wright played over 2,000 snaps at Tennessee. He was one of the most experienced tackles in the draft but is still only 21 years old.

The rookie right tackle authored a brilliant senior season at Tennessee, where he allowed just eight total pressures and didn’t give up a sack. That’s a credit to his raw talent and a meticulous film-study approach he honed during his final season in Knoxville.

Despite the brilliant senior campaign, Wright told NBC Sports he’s “free-balling it” a lot of times. That’s why he’s excited to work with Morgan, an offensive line coach regarded as one of the best teachers in the NFL. If anyone is going to get the best out of him, it will be Morgan.

“It’s rare that you get to go somewhere where you really get to get coached by someone you really like and you feel like can take your game to the next level.” Wright said of Morgan. “That’s what I feel like C-Mo can do for me. He already told me it’s gonna be hard, but I’ve never shied away from hard. I just want to get the best out of myself, and I think Coach C-Mo is gonna be perfect for me. It’s just gonna be perfect.”

Wright and Morgan formed a quick connection during the pre-draft process. They share the same pet peeves, and Wright believes that he, Morgan, and Fields can do something special, something rare, together in Chicago.

“I don't even know. I'm first-ballot Hall-of-Fame, automatic,” Wright told NBC Sports Chicago when asked where he sees his career going in 10-15 years alongside Morgan and Fields. "I’ll be up here on these [Halas Hall walls].

“I’m just ready. I want to take this suit off,” Wright said. “I’m ready to roll.”

Consider the tone, both for the 2023 season and Wright’s Bears career, set.

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