Billy Price said he never sleeps well in a hotel, but it probably didn’t help that he had three fumbled snaps running through his mind.
The Cincinnati Bengals rookie center got off to a rough start in his first full-go practice at the NFL level and came into Day 2 of training camp Friday feeling tired after a restless night.
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Coming off surgery to repair a pectoral muscle tear after the Combine, Price was limited this spring during the Bengals’ offseason workout program and never had a chance to go against a defender in team drills. The first-round draft pick was cleared for all football activity late last month and got a rude awakening Thursday with Geno Atkins pushing against him for his first introduction to blocking a professional defensive lineman.
While trying to manage a defender coming at him and an exchange with Andy Dalton, Price ended up putting the ball on the ground three times.
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“You’re not used to that speed,” Price said. “I haven’t played football since Dec. 29 and the last guys I played against were college guys. Playing against professional athletes, we’ve got some talented, quick guys over there and I wasn’t expecting it. I guess I undervalued their quickness. It was my first day, so I will get that corrected. It was my fault.”
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis took into account that was his first day while assessing Price’s performance Thursday but said he expects better of his new center going forward.
The same goes for Dalton and his expectations of Price.
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“Obviously you never want to put the ball on the ground, but it’s the first time in a while he had a guy in front of him while taking a snap under center,” Dalton said. “I think for him he just has to get used to the cadence and used to how we’re doing things and just making sure he’s getting the ball in the right spot. It’s the first day for him. He’s got a lot of stuff he’s thinking about right now. Getting the snap is the easiest thing, so you don’t want to over coach that because he knows what he’s doing.”
When asked if the mental or physical adjustment from college to the NFL is more difficult, Price couldn’t separate the two. He was well-prepared at Ohio State, but the Big Ten is no comparison to the pros.
“There is a massive playbook,” Price said. “There is a ton of things to remember and understand, but the easy thing is if you understand defensive personnel, it makes the offensive transition much easier. Physically, as well. We’re one day in and you start to feel the bumps and bruises and soreness. Guys are just a lot faster. Linebackers attack faster, defensive linemen, even though they might be 340-350 pounds, they can still move laterally pretty quick. That’s something to get used to, and we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
Price isn’t just getting used to NFL speed, size and talent, though.
At Ohio State, the quarterback almost always worked out of the shotgun, so this is his first real experience snapping to someone under center.
“You’re going right in a live zone, you’re pulling in different directions every now and then, but it’s something to get used to,” Price said Friday. “It’s something I never did at Ohio State. Victory formation, three times when we played USC, not many times at all. It’s something we practiced but we just never did during games. It’s a small adjustment, so I’ll be fine.”
Dalton has no doubts Price is up to the task after seeing his work ethic this offseason.
The two spent time working on snaps during the spring, and Dalton was pleasantly surprised how physically prepared Price came into camp. He also believes Price is mentally capable of handling the pressure of the first-round draft pick tag.
“He has worked really hard, and for him to get back from injury as quickly as he did shows the type of work he puts in,” Dalton said. “I think he expects to play well, regardless of the expectations outside of here.”
Price wasn’t easy on himself about his mistakes made Thursday, but was ready to get back to work Friday.
Despite feeling a little tired, he said he physically was fine after his first full practice and hasn’t experienced any pain in his shoulder.
“I feel fine,” he said. “It’s just something you have to get re-acclimated to. A couple days into camp, we’ll see how we are next week but you’ve just got to go take care of your body. I’m going to shower, get in the cold tub and get right and be ready for practice this afternoon and be good to go.”