Coming back from a type of surgery few have even ever had, Buccaneers defensive tackle Brain Price has surprised many. With screws attaching parts of his body in places that metal should never touch, Price is a walking wonder.
With six tackles, including three for loss plus a sack, few could have seen this coming. At times even Price wondered what the future held.
“You always have that good angel and bad angel on your shoulder,” Price said. “Ninety percent of the time I knew I was going to make a great comeback, but that 10 percent was saying, ‘What if I never play again? What if my get-off isn’t the same?'
"Overall I had to stay positive about it. The only person that could stop me was me. If I were to keep telling myself I wasn’t going to play again … words have power.”
Rookie teammate Da’Quan Bowers said watching Price work his way back has been an inspiration.
“He has come a long way,” Bowers said. “I have been in that predicament and it’s a hard thing. The way that I saw him grind and fight and claw through camp when he came back and wasn’t quite healthy, it inspired me. Here I am with a minor surgery, and here is a guy who had screws all up in his back and in his hamstrings. The way he goes about his everyday life and works hard inspires me.”
Another rookie who has admired Price’s comeback is Adrian Clayborn, who along with Price notched their first NFL sacks last Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
“To have a guy that pushes himself as hard as he does without complaining (is inspiring),” Clayborn said. “To know you have screws in your bones to connect your hamstrings is crazy. I don’t know how I would be able to play like that. And he does it without a peep. It is just incredible.”
Price isn’t 100 percent yet but isn’t using his injury as an excuse to stay off the field.
“It’s hard to say where I'm at (health-wise),” Price said. “I don’t really even think about it when I'm in here. I just want to play. I have put up a lot. You have to go through a lot of trials and tribulations to get to the top. I just show up with a smile on my face willing to get better and better each day.
“If I dwell on how bad it hurts or how much pain I'm in, then I will stay in that position. I just want to get better and better each day. The mind is a powerful muscle. I can't be weak minded during this process. I like to think I am a tough person and am willing to put up with a lot. I love showing up and playing football. That's what I live for.”
When the Buccaneers drafted Price [6-foot-1, 303-pounds] out of UCLA with the 35th-overall pick in the 2010 draft, the book on him was his quick burst and first step. So far, even with the injury, Price doesn’t seem to have lost a step. Bowers is amazed at what he sees everyday in practice and on the field during games.
“You can’t coach that,” Bowers said. “That's natural ability. To be his size and have that first step is God’s grace. Not a lot of people his size can move like that and he's been blessed to be able to do the things he does. And although he's coming off the injury I can’t tell it by the way he plays.”
Success can mask pain sometimes, and with the stellar play of Price and his teammates, the Buccaneers are off to a 2-1 start and are atop the NFC South. Price credits the new defensive line coaches, Keith Millard and Grady Stretz, with the results the line have shown early in the 2011 season.
“They've helped everybody so much,” Price said. “Our whole mindset is different. Our whole defensive line is different than last year. We want to go and get it. Coach Millard challenges us on the pass rush. Grady Stretz helps us with the run and last week we held Atlanta to 30 yards. So the mentality up front is way different. No line, no shine. Pass rush and pass coverage goes hand in hand. Our swagger has changed around here as a team.”
Millard said Price’s style of play is a key factor in what the Buccaneers want to do defensively each week.
“Brian Price – this is a ready-made defense for him,” Millard said. “He was the key element for this all falling into place. I knew when we got him healthy and ready, he makes a huge difference. And no he’s not a 100 percent, but he’s a better 70-75 percent than most guys out there. You have to account for him.”
In the locker room it is common to see Price, Bowers, McCoy and the other defensive linemen having fun and cutting up. Bowers said the closeness of the unit off the field helps make game days even better.
“Having that sense of urgency and trust factor does (translate to the playing field),” Bowers said. “When you hang out with somebody outside of work you get to know someone’s personality. Just like Brian. He doesn’t say anything outside of work. But you know when he's on the field he isn’t going to say anything, just get his job done.”