Billy Price passed a physical and was cleared to return to practice Friday as the Cincinnati Bengals wrapped up their first week of training camp.
The former Ohio State center and 2018 first-round draft pick had been placed on the active/non-football injury list July 26 when players first reported to Paul Brown Stadium.
Price said he could not clarify why he hadn’t initially been cleared to practice, but NFL Network’s James Palmer reported he was dealing with plantar fasciitis.
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“It’s like Christmas morning, something I’ve been waiting for,” Price said Friday before practice. “Again, it’s a process getting back from injuries, so I’m happy to get back out with the boys, kind of start the chemistry, kind of dust things off from OTAs.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor had expected Price to be back within the first two weeks of training camp, but Price said he was cleared sooner than the projected timeline, which he credited to the work of the rehab staff.
Taylor planned to “ease him back” in but looked forward to seeing where he is at in terms of readiness for the first preseason game Aug. 10 at Kansas City. The Bengals hold their “Family Dey” intrasquad scrimmage Saturday at Paul Brown Stadium.
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Price is a welcome re-addition to offensive line, which already was scrambling after the recent losses of left guard Clint Boling (to retirement) and left tackle Jonah Williams (shoulder surgery) before training camp began. Price was an unexpected non-participant, and this is his third injury since tearing a pectoral muscle while bench pressing at the NFL Combine last winter. He missed six games last year after suffering a toe injury in Week 2.
When asked whether it feels like a fresh start with those injuries behind him, Price said it’s just “a fact of life” that injuries can happen anytime.
“It is a risk,” he said. “I will say guys are a lot more confident going into this year and we’ve got better routines. Going into your second year you kind of understand the resources that you need around you and the support team, my wife, my massage therapist, better relationship with the guys in the training room. Strength staff is a huge aspect of that, too.”
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In Price’s absence, Trey Hopkins has been filling in at center, but Taylor said during his Friday news conference that Hopkins will get some looks at left guard. That’s the one position that appears unsettled. John Jerry and Christian Westerman have been trading off days getting snaps with the first team offense, and Taylor said it was pre-determined those two would get the first shot at the job.
Taylor originally had wanted to enter camp with a set rotation on the line but the recent turn of events with Williams, Boling and Price has forced the Bengals to mix things up more than they would have liked.
“The biggest thing it affects is the rotation, so there are more bodies in the mix, particularly with the 1’s and then when you change up the 1’s that does mix up the 2’s as well,” Taylor said. “We will take as much time as we need to, but as quickly as possible you’ve got to set those units so they can develop that chemistry together because we want to find the best five guys that work together.”
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Price said it doesn’t matter who is playing next to him. He needs only about four plays to get comfortable with someone, and the new staff has made things easier for the offensive line by simplifying assignments.
“There’s a system in place that makes it better for the offensive line,” Price said. “We can classify things within certain categories, and as you assess the defense — it’s a black and white world for us now, not a lot of speculation and a lot of thinking.
“… Coach (Brian) Callahan and coach Taylor and the guys up there make it very easy for us. The less thinking we have to do, the faster we play, the more confident we play, the more explosiveness you’ll see from Joe Mixon and the skill guys as they are running around.”
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