CINCINNATI – In a span of less than four minutes during an interview in the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room before their first practice of rookie minicamp on Friday, Billy Price repeated the same phrase at least three times.
"I got a lot of work to do."
After an illustrious career at Ohio State in which he broke the school record for games started (55) and was both a Rimington Trophy winner and a first-team All-American, Price was selected with the No. 21 overall pick in last month’s NFL draft, ensuring that he will not only make the Bengals’ roster but also that he will have an immediate opportunity to compete for their starting center position.
Price, however, isn’t resting on his past accomplishments or letting his high draft selection get to his head.
Instead, he feels like he needs to prove himself all over again.
"Really didn’t get caught up in the hype of first round this, first round that," Price said. "I’m at ground zero. I got a lot of work to do and there’s nothing that’s given to me. You’re not in college anymore."
Of all the players selected in this year’s NFL draft, few if any have more experience under their belts than Price, who spent five years at Ohio State and started every game of his four playing seasons, playing all three interior offensive line positions over the course of his career. That experience should go a long way in his effort to emerge as a Week 1 starter in the middle of the Bengals’ offensive line.
In order to have continued success, though, Price says he must continue to get better because the NFL – particularly in the mental side of the game, and how quickly the acclimation process takes place – presents challenges that playing at Ohio State did not.
"In college, you’re the freshman, you’ll learn it. Now," Price said while snapping his fingers, "I’ve got to learn it now. I’ve got three days where I have to master four or five different concepts with 10 variations."
Upon being drafted by the Bengals last month, Price said he quickly started working on learning the team’s playbook, knowing that he would need to know it well by the time this past weekend’s rookie minicamp came around.
Price’s go-to-work mentality was evident once the Bengals hit the practice field on Friday, too, as he participated in as many drills as he could even though he is still recovering from the incomplete pectoral tear he suffered while bench pressing at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Following the Bengals’ second day of rookie minicamp practice on Saturday, Price stayed after practice for an additional 20 minutes doing conditioning drills, according to FOX19’s Joe Danneman. Afterward, he told FOX19’s Jeremy Rauch that he did that because of his respect for the process and the work he needs to put in.
"I came as a first-round draft pick, OK, that’s great, but there’s 40-some guys out here right now trying to make a team, and I’m trying to make a team as well," Price told Rauch. "So although it’s a first-round draft pick, and the glory around it’s great, you still got to work like everybody else."
That mentality, Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said on the night they drafted Price, was a big reason why they felt comfortable selecting him with a first-round pick even though he is battling back from an injury.
"You’d like to have 53 guys like that, with his intensity, his football intellect, just his approach to the game," Lewis said of Price. "He has all the intangibles. And when you talk with Coach Meyer and the rest of the staff there, and they talk about players that they’ve coached and had on their football team, you’ve got to feel great about that. So we look forward to him continuing that here, and uplifting, and being kind of one of the pillars of the building."
Price believes his intensity, and holding himself and his team to the standard of operating at a very high level, are qualities that he brings to Cincinnati from Ohio State.
He also knows, though, that what he did as a Buckeye won’t make him successful as a Bengal unless he continues to hold himself to that same standard and push himself to get even better.
"I got a lot of things that I got to improve on," Price said Friday. "There’s a lot of calls and stuff that I got to get better at, recognizing defenses, understanding what our offensive concepts and what we’re trying to do."
Therefore, if you ask Price what his expectations are as he prepares for his first season in the NFL, the Austintown, Ohio native keeps his answer simple.
"Shut my mouth and just go to work," Price said. "Just get better, and add value to the team."