GREEN BAY – Brian Price is the first to admit he was one of those “wide-eyed” rookies a year ago.
As an undrafted prospect from a smaller, unheralded school like Texas-San Antonio, Price can be forgiven for feeling a tad overwhelmed in an NFL environment.
But the 6-3, 318-pound defensive lineman has a new perspective in his second season with the Packers, and it’s showing on the practice field thus far in training camp.
Against mostly second- and third-string offensive linemen, Price has been difficult to contain at times as a run defender. He’s also displayed some pass-rush aptitude in the one-on-one drills.
He’s a long way from a roster spot, with four preseason games awaiting between now and the end of the month, but Price is off to a strong start and looking to keep it going.
“This year it’s a different game,” Price said in a brief chat with packers.com. “I know what I have to lose now. I know what I have to gain. So I’m doing it by any means to get where I want to be, and that’s in the next locker room for a very long time.”
The location is a reference to Lambeau Field’s main locker room, not the auxiliary one where Price currently resides. He spent two weeks in the main room on the active roster early last season, in between stretches on the practice squad, so he got a taste of what it feels like.
He’d like to hop off the roller coaster he rode as a rookie, though, having been released twice on either end of his active-roster stint.
Veteran Ricky Jean Francois ribs him a bit about changing his locker locale permanently, and Price has been willing to listen to any advice the free-agent signee is willing to pass along. Jean Francois’ main point of emphasis has been to not get bogged down trying to be perfect on every snap.
“He’s explosive, strong, (doesn’t) get tired,” Jean Francois said. “But you could see him going 1,000 miles per hour, trying to think of so many things, and I’m just trying to help him break the game down, make it a lot slower and a lot simpler.”
While Price absorbs Jean Francois’ cerebral approach, he’s also being pushed by fiery leader Mike Daniels to cut it loose all the time.
“With Mike, it’s more like just be yourself, be crazy, bull anybody you can and just go make a play,” Price said, laughing at the contrast between what’s going in each ear. “It’s like total opposites of the spectrum, but it’s all positive and they’re there to look out for me.”
So is defensive line coach Mike Trgovac, who never lets Price get too proud of himself. During the first night practice of camp last Thursday, which was looking like Price’s best of camp, Trgovac barked at him on one play about not hustling after the ball-carrier.
Price takes it all in, from all directions.
“He gets on everybody’s (butt),” Price said of his position coach. “If you mess up on something doing the smallest thing, … that’s the thing about ‘Trgo.’ You could have a good play but have bad hand movement, he’ll still get on you, which I can appreciate in a coach like him.”
From his rookie year until now, Price believes he’s improved his hand technique, his football IQ, and his ability to read blocks. Jean Francois has helped some with footwork and formations. Price also says he can “breathe a little bit more” with a year under his belt, though he won’t go so far to say he’s comfortable.
A player in his position never can be. He’s been through the ups and downs – from getting cut at the end of training camp to playing in Week 3 vs. Detroit to going back on the practice squad the rest of last year – and all the changed locker locations along the way.
“I’m not going to say I was happy with what happened. It’s a business. It’s expected. But I can almost say that I kind of needed that to get my hunger back,” Price said. “I felt I lost it a little bit.”
Not that any added incentive was necessary, but the official release of veteran defensive lineman Letroy Guion on Tuesday presents a roster spot to be seized.
As progressions go, wide-eyed to hungry isn’t a bad one, and its impact on his game is what Price will be out to prove beginning Thursday night in the preseason opener against the Eagles.
“This is the time,” he said. “I’m not sure about the PT (playing time) I’m going to get now or the last game, but I can assure you, when I go in there I’ll make the best of my plays.
“I have no choice. That’s the game plan for me.”