The Buccaneers’ trade of Brian Price to the Chicago Bears on Friday didn’t come as a surprise to the talented by often-injured defensive tackle.
“It was something we were preparing for,” Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. “Chuck Price (Brian Price’s agent) wasn’t shocked. We’ve been in constant contact. We’ve talked the entire offseason.”
The Price trade shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise to PewterReport.com readers either as it first reported that he wasn’t a lock to make the team this year in a Pewter Pulse column on June 15.
Since Thursday night Dominik has been getting blasted by some fans for giving up on Price too early and trading him to Chicago for an undisclosed draft pick. Some are looking at the recent death of Price’s sister and all of the tragedy he has faced personally and professionally with his serious injuries and the fact that Price was involved in a fight with first-round draft pick Mark Barron and have some sympathetic feelings over the 2010 second-round pick. They view the move as a heartless one by the Bucs organization.
If anything, fans should be upset with Dominik for even drafting Price, who has seen his NFL career interrupted by a series of personal and physical setbacks related to his injured hamstring and pelvis, which have been repaired through a radical surgical procedure during his rookie season, which ended prematurely on injured reserve. In retrospect, not enough homework was done on Price’s physical condition and his character by the Tampa Bay organization, and that in part played a role in the dismissal of Buccaneers West Coast college scout Jim Abrams during this past offseason.
There is no doubt that Price, who hails from the inner city in Crenshaw, Calif., had a rough upbringing. Both of Price’s brothers were tragically gunned down in drive-bys years ago while he was growing up.
The Bucs loved Price’s talent. They just didn’t get to see it enough. They had him as a top 15 prospect on their draft boards in the 2010 draft and were ecstatic to get him in the second round, but in two injury-marred seasons, Price tallied just 34 tackles and three sacks with all of his quarterback captures happening in 2011.
When Price, who has struggled with his weight and conditioning since his hamstring and pelvic surgery in 2010, failed his conditioning test miserably on Thursday, which is the day the Bucs players reported to training camp. The conditioning test was a timed test 16 110-yard sprints with 45-second breaks in between runs.
But as Dominik said on Friday that was just but one chapter in a bad novel of Price’s time in Tampa Bay.
“It is disappointing to us as an organization and I know Brian Price is disappointed it worked out the way it did,” Dominik said. “But at the same point we have to move and do what we feel as an organization – and me specifically – that are in the best interest of this football team.
“I have a lot of respect for Brian. He has been through a lot of personal drama, and he got a lot of physical drama he has been though, too. He got to get everything put together.”
Dominik’s use of the term “drama” reveals just how tired and frustrated the organization was becoming with Price. During his rookie season, Price contemplated quitting football when he was on injured reserve. Having grown up his entire life in the Los Angeles area, Price attended nearby UCLA and had only traveled outside the state of California for road games while playing for the Bruins.
Moving across the country to Florida made Price homesick in 2010 and it wasn’t until his girlfriend, U.S. track star Candice Davis, moved in with him and married him did the team feel that Price might get used to living on the East Coast. It helped, but there was a time when the organization felt that Price might actually leave the Bucs and give up his football career.
After his surgery, Price’s weight ballooned up to close to 350 pounds in the 2011 offseason. The fact that the NFL was going through a lockout situation last offseason certainly didn’t help Price’s conditioning and his rehab process. To his credit, Price was able to drop over 20 pounds in training camp and the preseason and won a starting spot at nose tackle over Roy Miller and Frank Okam – the two players aside from newcomer Gary Gibson that will be vying for the starting job in Price’s absence.
Keep in mind that former head coach Raheem Morris sent Price home at halftime after swinging at a Carolina player during the throwback game and drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty on third down that gave the Panthers a first down. Morris had just emphasized penalties during the week prior to the Carolina game and was fed up with his players not listening.
Some were surprised that Morris singled out Price at the time, but many within the organization knew that Price was no angel and that there was a hard-edged persona behind-the-scenes to go along with the teddy bear persona that he flashed before the cameras. Barron saw Price’s hard-edged persona first-hand when Price lost his temper in a team meeting because the rookie was apparently in his seat.
An initial report suggested that Price “pummeled” Barron, but PewterReport.com has learned that some elements of that report were exaggerated and that Barron more than held his own in the confrontation. The Bucs were not happy with Price losing his temper and picking on a new teammate, nor did they like that the story got out to the media and the way it portrayed Price as some sort of martyr and that Barron was somehow a jerk for simply sitting in the wrong spot.
Price was sent home from One Buccaneer Place after that incident and was told that he could skip the rest of the OTAs and the mandatory mini-camp. The next time the Bucs saw Price he was out of shape and failed the conditioning test.
Dominik attempted to talk up Miller, who is the current starting nose tackle, on Friday, but he had a chance to start last year and the fact is that he was beaten out by a less-than-100 percent Price. Miller, who started in 2010, is in a contract year and that could motivate him to play better than he did a year ago.
“I’m excited to see Roy Miller and Gerald McCoy, Wallace Gilberry and the guys that are here competing for a roster spot – Gary Gibson and Amobi Okoye,” Dominik said. “Those are the players that we are going to talk about going forward.”
“[Price] has had an unfortunate career and an unfortunate personal life. A really tragic personal life. So it’s very difficult to think about all the things he’s gone through, from losing his sister, to the injuries he’s dealt with and the surgeries he’s dealt with. But at some point we have to go out there and win some football games, and part of the plan for us was to be involved in free agency and find guys like Amobi Okoye and Wallace Gilberry who can help out, so it’s a position that we have focused on, knowing this day could come.”
Miller, Okam and Gibson each bring a physical presence to the nose tackle position and should be able to anchor well against the run. But when healthy, Price had uncanny quickness off the ball, and there isn't any nose tackle on the Bucs' roster that can replicate his explosiveness.
“We'll be alright,” McCoy said. “You know, they had to make decisions and they made them. But it's just a hurdle, we jumped over it, and we're moving on. We can't look back, we just got to look towards the future and you know, do what we've got to do.”
Price joins free safety Tanard Jackson and tight end Kellen Winslow as the third starter Dominik and new head coach Greg Schiano have released this offseason.
“I look at everybody’s body of work and are they a fit for the Buccaneers, what we’re trying to be, who we’re trying to be?” Schiano said. “Just because you’re not a fit for us, doesn’t mean you’re not a fit for somebody else. Mark and I feel like the best thing for him and the best thing for us was to find a new place and it worked out well.”
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