TAMPA — Brian Price is described by his coaches and teammates as affable and engaging.
But lately you would hardly know he can be like that.
The Bucs' rookie defensive tackle has been out of the lineup because of a hamstring injury that has lingered since the offseason, and during the past week, Price's frustration reached a peak.
"He goes into a little bit of a shell when he's not playing," coach Raheem Morris said. "He gets a little angry at himself. He goes quiet. But when he's playing, you see his personality. He lights up a room."
Maybe Price will be smiling ear to ear Saturday. That's when he will make his professional debut, in a preseason game against the Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium. The second-round draft pick from UCLA can hardly think about anything else.
"I'm going out there to take care of business," he said.
Price cares deeply about rewarding the Bucs for investing in him. He talks about wanting to help re-establish the team's legacy of great defense.
"I'm ready to show why they drafted me and why they made a good choice," he said. "I don't want to be a bust."
That's the last thing anyone around One Buc Place thinks Price will be.
Second-year defensive end Kyle Moore, who attended USC, has been telling anyone who will listen that Price's performance during training camp was common when he played for the Trojans' rival.
"He was the only one doing anything against our offensive line," Moore said. "When you watched him, it's like he was the first one to get off the line every single time. Now I see it here, and it's for real."
The Bucs targeted Price despite intending to draft defensive tackle Gerald McCoy third overall. Price was the same type of pass-rushing, penetrating tackle at UCLA, leaving the impression that the Bucs' predraft interest in him was solely as a Plan B if McCoy was unavailable.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
"You have to think back in the past to when (the Bucs) were humming on defense," Price said. "We had (tackles) like (Warren) Sapp and (Brad) Culpepper and Booger McFarland all playing together. When you have those tackles … playing well, it just makes everybody on your football team better."
McCoy will generally occupy what is called the "three-technique" tackle spot, where the tackle lines up in the gap between the guard and tackle. That means Price is in for a bit of a change; he'll often be splitting the nose tackle position with Roy Miller, lined up directly across from the center. It's a more physical assignment than the three-technique, which stresses quickness over power to shoot through the gap.
But Price is said to be adapting well to the position change.
"It's pretty cool," he said. "It's close to the quarterback, so you have a chance to split the double team if you can and get off. You have a chance to make a lot of plays, but you have to be able to fight and hold your ground."
Said Morris: "He's done a nice job, and we've done a nice job moving him around and giving him some different packages and different looks. … I'm just excited for him to be anywhere on the football team, because he's going to cause disruption wherever he is."
But to be disruptive, Price will have to adjust to more than a new position. He learned that while sitting on his sofa watching McCoy play at Miami last week. (Price didn't make the trip because of his hamstring.)
"I saw (McCoy) get double teamed a lot," Price said. "You could see they knew who he was. So I guess I can expect the same kind of thing."
Price won't play much Saturday, coaches said. If he shows in the game what he has shown them in practice, his coaches should end the night in a good mood. And given that Price will be back on the field, so, too, should he.