Raheem Morris has established something of an unofficial motto for the season: "It's a race to 10." The prevailing attitude of the first weekend of camp was optimism. The opening-day news was dominated by the rush to get
Truth be told, though, two days and three practices is not enough to establish any dominant storylines of camp or uncover any real trends. It may take another day or three for that to occur, and hopefully they will center on emerging contributors and not injuries or upheaval.
If so, here's a possible candidate to be one of the early stories of training camp emergence:
Price, the second-round defensive tackle out of UCLA, missed most of the Bucs' practice work in May and July due first to UCLA's long spring semester and then to a minor hamstring injury. He pushed sleds, worked out with trainers and grabbed 'mental reps' from the sideline during OTAs, but he wasn't really in the mix. Saturday morning's camp practice wasn't exactly Price's Buccaneer debut, but it was close, and it was certainly his first NFL action in pads. And it was eye-opening.
Making up for lost time, Price was all over the field. According to Morris, the young DT at times "ruined" practice, and scouts on the sideline at One Buccaneer Place confirm that he was enormously disruptive. It might concern some linemen on the other side of the ball that Price matter-of-factly says he's not completely recovered from his injury just yet, though he's giving total effort.
"I love football and I had to ease back into it because I had the injury," he said. "I'm not 100 percent yet, but I'm feeling good out here. I'm just going 100 percent, and we've got some great leaders out here in
" I'm just coming out here and doing my job. They drafted me for a reason. I'm just trying to play team ball and do what I came to do."
Through two days, the most common rotation during full-team drills is Gerald McCoy at three-technique and Roy Miller on the nose on the first-team line, with Ryan Sims replacing McCoy and Price replacing Miller with the next group in. Price said he has also seen some action at the three-technique, which he played in college, but focusing on the nose increases the possibility that he and McCoy will eventually be on the field side by side on Sunday.
McCoy, the third overall pick in April, has already established his presence on the practice, according to Morris. Price is trying to do the same, and in a way he stole the spotlight on Saturday. Together, they could make an impact very quickly, even while analysts caution against expecting too much out of rookies on the defensive line.
"I like proving people wrong," said Price. "That's the main thing I'm out here for, to prove people wrong. And Gerald McCoy is a great player so we're going to come out here and show people we can play our first year and many years to come.
"They drafted us for a reason, so we've got to get after it. We've got a chance to be the best tandem and that's what we're working for in the future. Those are big shoes to fill, but we're coming out here and getting after it. We're getting pushed hard and challenged but it works."
After Price wreak havoc on Saturday, Morris purposely got a good vantage point behind the offense on Sunday in order to see if his two young DTs could keep it up for a second day in a row. Sunday afternoon's field session was brutally hot - on-field heat index readings reached 105 degrees - but Price and McCoy kept up their own brand of heat.
"It's really fun to stand back there on the offensive side of the ball like I was able to do today and kind of focus in and lock in and look at those two guys get in there and compete," said Morris. "It definitely helps to have those two guys in there. They have the 'fight-for-their-life' mentality, even though they're not really. They have that mentality and it's an awesome thing. It's two different personalities as well. One is more flamboyant and one is more of a laid-back West Coast kind of guy and it's a nice mixture. I think they're forming something in there kind of special."
Indeed, after Sunday's sweat marathon, Price calmly answered questions about the day with a group of reporters while McCoy danced and made faces over his right shoulder. They make for an interesting pair, and one you can envision livening up the Bucs' practice field for many years to come. And while McCoy may like to clown around and lighten the mood off the field, he takes on a serious demeanor between the lines. Price says it's important for all of the linemen to take practice and the challenge to improve the Bucs' defense seriously in order for the group to push through the grind of camp.
"The guys that are around you...we've got to push each other," he said. "It's hard to do it on your own but when you have guys like the guys I mentioned before, everything works out. Our coaches are always fired up so they find a way to get it out of us. You know you're going to come out here and sweat and be tired. But you've got to be mentally tough.
"Reaching your goals is fun. That's why a lot of guys get deterred from their dreams, because they think it's hard. But we've great guys here that are helping us learn and get through. I look forward to reaching all of my goals and coming out here to win."