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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Beat: Price's absence adds to D-line uncertainty

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 05:07 PM
TAMPA -

Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik still dreams of fielding a defensive line consisting of ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers and tackles Gerald McCoy and Brian Price.

Dream is about all he can do.

That foursome has been on the field only occasionally since Dominik completed its assembly by adding Clayborn and Bowers in the 2011 draft, and there is little reason to believe it will be together anytime soon.

Bowers is already in danger of missing the entire 2012 season because of a torn Achilles tendon and there is uncertainty regarding Price's availability. Having missed some offseason workouts while grieving the loss of his sister, who was killed last month in a car accident, Price apparently has missed time because of physical problems, as well.

Price did not participate in either of the past two workouts that were briefly open to the media. Asked last week if physical issues were keeping Price off the field, Bucs coach Greg Schiano was unclear.

"Yeah, I mean, I don't know; it's a combination of things,'' Schiano said. "Right now, I'm hopeful he'll be able to go, but we'll just have to play that by ear. I'm not sure.

"We'll just have to see."

If Price is not ready for this week's three-day mandatory minicamp, Schiano said he hoped Price would be ready for training camp in late July.

Those are hardly encouraging words, especially about a player who admittedly played at about 60 percent last season while recovering from surgeries to reattach his hamstrings to his pelvis.

After learning of his sister's death, Price was so physically and mentally exhausted he had to be hospitalized in Tampa for several days.

"It may be related to (the surgeries he had last year),'' Schiano said. "But I don't think it's that specifically. He has had some issues and hopefully that will work itself out.''

The Bucs are giving Price a chance to work out those issues on his own. According to his agent, Charles Price, who is no relation to Brian, Price has permission to work out near his family's home in Los Angeles with noted personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, who has built a reputation for helping athletes recover from difficult injuries through a unique regimen of muscle manipulation, nutrition and supplementation.

The hope is Guerrero will make Price better than ever, but the Bucs are clearly preparing for the possibility of a stretch without him. Last week, they added more flexibility up front by signing veteran defensive ends Wallace Gilberry and Jayme Mitchell.

Mitchell started 13 games for the Browns a year ago, most of them at right end, but can also play left end, which would allow Michael Bennett to move to tackle on passing downs. Gilberry is a career backup, but found a niche with the Chiefs as a situational pass rusher with 14 sacks in four years.

Throw in tackles Gary Gibson and Amobi Okoye, whose 15 sacks in five seasons are tops among Tampa Bay's linemen, and the Bucs appear to have plenty of veteran depth should Price continue to struggle.

Add it all up and the Bucs appear to be far more capable of absorbing the loss of one of their top defensive lineman. Still, it's too bad they're being forced already to tap into that newfound depth.


rcummings@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7979 Twitter: @RCummingsTrib

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