San Francisco 49ers cornerback Shareece Wright loves the state of California.
A Colton, Calif., native, Wright was a star-corner at USC before spending his first four NFL seasons with the San Diego Chargers. As a free agent this offseason, Wright opted to keep his career in the Golden State, signing a one-year deal with the 49ers on March 14.
For Wright, the move made sense for a number of reasons.
"Just being from California, and growing up as a kid watching San Francisco," Wright said. "(The 49ers are) a great organization and there have been great players to come in and out of here. I wanted to be a part of that."
San Francisco isn't just an ideal location to call home, but the 49ers currently have an open competition at the cornerback position. Wright joins Tramaine Brock and Chris Cook as the most experienced members of the group.
Marcus Cromartie, Mylan Hicks, Dontae Johnson, Leon McFadden and Keith Reaser are the young names trying to establish themselves in the NFL.
Eight players vying for two starting spots, three if you count the nickel corner position.
What Wright has going for him is a recent track record of success. The former third-round pick in 2011 made 27 starts over the last two seasons with the Chargers. His 14 starts in 2014 alone are more than any other 49ers cornerback. Wright said he now feels like a veteran in this league and wants to show the coaching staff that he can dominate one side of the field.
"I take pride in my man-to-man coverage and the ability to play press coverage against any receiver," Wright said, describing a skillset that has become a hot commodity in the NFL. "I want to be that guy who isn't afraid to line up against anybody. I like to be physical. I like to get in a receivers face and make him have a long day."
If the coaches decided they wanted Wright to play inside, the 49ers corner said he'd have no problem assuming that role. Wright started at nickel corner, the man mostly responsible for covering an offense's slot receiver, before moving to the outside in San Diego.
And competition is nothing new for Wright. In San Diego, he had to compete against the likes of Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason before finding playing time on Sundays.
He's also accustomed to playing in front of a Pro Bowl safety. With the Chargers, it was Eric Weddle. Now with the 49ers, Wright has the opportunity to line up with Antoine Bethea, San Francisco's team MVP in 2014.
"I couldn't ask for a better player to play with after Eric Weddle," Wright said. "Weddle is like a defensive coordinator out there on the field and he helps you out a lot. Bethea is the same way, a veteran guy who takes pride in knowing what he's doing and being that quarterback on the field for us. I couldn't ask for a better safety to play behind me."
View the top images from the second week of San Francisco 49ers OTAs.
Wright, Bethea and the rest of the 49ers defensive unit are focused on learning defensive coordinator Eric Mangini's scheme. Wright said he's on the right track from a learning perspective and offered high praise of Mangini's style as a coach.
"He's a teacher," Wright said. "Before he expects us to do anything he makes sure we understand it. He quizzes us and puts it on the board. He's a smart coach. He knows what to expect from offenses and how they think. That helps us as a defense."
The competition at cornerback is just getting started. Tim Lewis, the 49ers defensive backs coach, has rotated all eight corners throughout OTAs. There is no depth chart and the carousel will continue into training camp.
The ambiguity as to who will be starting Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings hasn't affected the culture inside the cornerback's room. Wright said everyone has their priorities in order.
"We're a lot of competitors and we all want to play but at the same time we're team players and all want to win," Wright said. "We understand that. If we're winning, we're all successful in our eyes. When you're on a winning team, you get rewarded just from being on a winning team.
"That's more important to us, getting each other better. You never know what's going to happen. If someone goes down it's next man up, and you want that next man up to be ready."