TAMPA — Brian Price grabbed his right hamstring and froze like an ice sculpture, afraid to make another move for fear it would be his last.
Who could blame him? During the offseason, the Bucs nose tackle had surgery to essentially reattach both hamstrings to his pelvis, which also required a bone graft.
"I'm sure it was probably a cramp," coach Raheem Morris said of Sunday's injury. "But when you've had both your hamstrings hammered on and ripped out with construction tools and put back together over the summer, those cramps on Sunday seem a little more scary for you."
The Bucs believe Price will be scary good when he is completely healthy. His play was so impressive in a limited role against the Lions, Morris said, he will start Sunday at Minnesota.
"He did a nice job," Morris said of the second-year lineman. "We'll still use our normal rotation because I want to keep those guys fresh, and I want those guys to have the ability to be strong and be tough and fight as a unit. But he's certainly earned the ability to go out there and play first. I'm really proud of where he's at and what he's doing for us, especially where he's come from."
Technically, Price's first start came Sunday because the Bucs opened with their nickel defense when the Lions opened with three receivers. He had two tackles, including one for a loss, before leaving in the second half. This week, he replaces Roy Miller in the base defense.
It's a significant step for Price and means the Bucs will finally have their 1-2 punch at defensive tackle: Price, a second-round pick from UCLA in 2010 who played in only five games as a rookie before going on injured reserve, and Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, who went third overall in 2010.
"His get-off was very noticeable," Morris said of Price. "He was very active, hands-on. He did things at a high level, and getting out there and having the ability to do a little bit more, I hope we can see a lot more from him."
The Bucs will need more than Price to slow down Vikings Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson, arguably the best ball carrier they will face this season.
"You can't let him get any breathing room because he'll absolutely burn you," Morris said. "I remember when I got to see Adrian Peterson for my first time.
"I believe he jumped over (Derrick) Brooks. He jump-cut (Ronde) Barber. He dragged another player for about 4 (yards). It was the best 6-yard run I've seen in my life."
As for Price, even though he will start Sunday, Morris said the Bucs have to be smart about how many snaps he plays.
"He's almost at that point we talked about a couple months ago when I said he had a couple weeks left and he's getting there," Morris said.
"The funny part with the young man is you really don't know. It's something new. I really lean on (trainer) Todd Toriscelli to let me know what we need to do with him and how we need to plan the week. He's been doing a nice job with Price, and Price has done a nice job of listening. And we've been fighting through it together."