Initial comments ...
“The three of us are very excited, and I know the building is very excited to add Billy Price to the football team. Just our time spent with him in Indianapolis, being up there in Columbus with him and when he was here, you just get the feel of a guy that you want to have on your football team. You like to have 53 guys like that with his intensity, his football intellect, and just his approach to the game. So we’re really excited to add him to the football team.”
Price suffered a pectoral injury at the NFL Combine. Did that concern you at all in the initial weeks after it happened?
“He obviously jumped through the medical hoops, and obviously did with flying colors, which is sometimes a difficult thing to do here. Billy came out on the good side of that. Doctors feel good about him being ready to go sometime late this summer. He may get some work in before we take the break, but for sure when we get to training camp, he’ll be ready to go.”
How much would an injury like that concern the team. It’s something you can come out of, but with linemen, many believe it’s difficult to get them on the same page because of having so few padded practices. Does it really make that much of a difference, or do you really just need to be at training camp?
“We anticipate that being the timeframe, and that he has the opportunity to hit the ground running right then.”
He had 55 starts, a record number at Ohio State. He’s shown durability, so his injury is probably a little ironic. And he was a two-time captain, so he’s got a lot of intangibles ...
“He does — he has all the intangibles. When you talk with Coach Meyer (Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer) and the rest of the staff there, and they talk (highly of him) among the players they’ve coached and had on their football team, so you’ve got to feel great about that. We look forward to him continuing that here, and uplifting, and being kind of one of the pillars of the building.”
Offensive line coach
When you watch him, he seemed really advanced technique-wise. He’s got an answer for almost everything technique-wise. Is that fair?
Pollack: “Yeah, he’s been well-coached and he’s advanced, obviously with some of the things he’s doing. He’s real good with his hands. He was a lot of fun to watch on tape that way. He’s got to come in and get going here. Again, just getting him out on the field sooner than later would be great. But we’ll have him in the classroom early, and he’ll start learning our scheme and system, and learn how to speak our language, if you will, to get him rolling.”
How challenging was sifting through the center prospects this year? It’s pretty rare to see two or three that could go in the first round. Was that a tough thing, or a fun process knowing there’s a lot of options there at a position that could be a need for you?
Lazor: “It’s a fun process, but it is a process. Number one, you have to know what you’re looking for before you can decide if someone fits it, and define the best person that fits it. There are a lot that would have, but we spent a lot of time as a staff talking about what we want to be. From there you go, ‘What kind of players fit that?’ Every single exposure, whether on video or in person that I’ve had with Billy kept solidifying and raising the bar that this is the guy for us. Whether it be the first time that I watched him on film, or meeting him at the Combine, when he walks out of that room everybody looks at each other and says, ‘Wow, this is the guy you want to have on your team.’ You have a chance as a whole offensive staff to study how he played, and then having him here on a visit, just every time he kept pushing higher and higher.”
Coach Pollack, you had Travis Frederick in Dallas, a first-round center who lived up to that. How much can that be the biggest move for a line that you’re reconstructing in your first year here with a similar type of style?
Pollack: “He has similar traits to Travis, where he’s a very strong player, very sound, plays with his hips and feet beneath him. He’s a guy that you can anchor in front of the quarterback, which is so valuable from the center position, especially in this division with some big nose guards and interior players. He can really solidify that pocket. With that said, I think he’s very similar to Travis. It’s important — he’s going to be a great add for us.”
With Frederick and Price, there’s some commonality with the Big Ten, with them being Wisconsin and Ohio State. Have you seen a good transition with linemen from the Big Ten to the NFL?
Pollack: “I do, I do see that. The Big Ten as a whole with the cold weather, they come in a little bit more — well, they’re mentally tough. They’re ready to take on a lot of those challenges in that regard. It seems to be a good trend for the Big Ten over the past few years producing quality offensive linemen.”
Is there any concern, given that he physically can’t participate in certain things during Phase 2 of the offseason program?
Lazor: “That’s the realities we deal with. He’s not going to be the only player to miss a rep here or there, or a practice here or there. That’s the NFL. Guys get hurt, guys have certain rehab schedules. Again, the medical team takes care of making the expert decision on when he’ll be back. We’re not allowed padded practices until training camp, and he won’t miss one of those.”
He’s 23 years old, so he’s a mature guy — not only by age, but it sounds like his overall personality and leadership ...
Lazor: “Absolutely. Like I said, when he walked out of our meeting at the Combine, there wasn’t anyone in disagreement in the room — we want that guy in the building.”
What do you think he does best?
Pollack: “Anchor. He’s all business. He came in (to college) as a D-lineman. He’s got that kind of an attitude. There are a lot of good things about him. Those are definitely the top things that come to mind.”
Having played so much guard, he must be pretty good in space pulling ...
Pollack: “He does do a good job pulling. That shows up a lot on tape. He does add position flex. I think center is definitely his best position, but he does have the ability to play guard. He played it in college.”
I read somewhere that he makes line calls. Is that right? Does he seem like he’s pretty comfortable with that?
Pollack: “Oh yeah. Playing center, he’s making all the calls. He’s really intelligent, and understands ball — he’s really smart.”
Coach Pollack, you showed up here earlier this offseason and you get a trade for OT Cordy Glenn, and then you get a center at No. 21 in the draft. What did you do to deserve this (laughs)?
Pollack: “(Laughs) I got a heck of a deal. It’s kind of nice.”
The other guy that’s kind of forgotten is OT Bobby Hart. When you look at tape from him when the Giants were in the playoffs, he played a pretty good right tackle ...
Pollack: “Yeah, he’s got skills, he’s got good measurables, he’s got good length, good feet. So he’s definitely in the mix competing over there. He’s another good guy to have in the building. Competition is a great thing.”
With Billy probably not being ready until camp, who do you envision at center?
Lazor: “I don’t know if I want to speak ahead. Marvin (Lewis) has a depth chart, and we’ll address that with the players when we’re able to go on the field on Monday. So it’s probably better for us to address it with them than say it out loud. I think we have options, I do. I feel good about the guys here. Through the process they’ve probably gone unmentioned outside the building more than inside the building, because we talked about what our options would be if we didn’t get a draft pick that we feel great about. I think we have options.”
I was watching one of their practices on the Big Ten Network, and he was running the show. Is he similar to former Bengals OT Andrew Whitworth in that way? Would you not classify him as a Whitworth-type guy?
Lazor: “I think I’ve been around some very good centers, but more often veteran ones— unlike Coach Pollack I haven’t drafted one that’s played right away. Veteran centers that are good players to me, it’s not only their play, but it’s a presence they have, an aura a little bit. Each guy is unique, but there’s just a sense when he walked in the room that he was in control of the room. When Coach Pollack sat him down and taught him some football and started quizzing him on it, he had a burning desire not to be wrong. I think that’s a great quality to have with your center. He got (ticked) if he wasn’t just exactly right, and you want that guy to be in charge. You want him to take pride in being right all the time, because like you said, the quarterback and the center are the play callers out there for us. I think he has those qualities.”
Guard, Ohio State University
You decided to have the surgery to correct your pectoral injury, even though it wasn’t necessary. What made you do that?
“Because it was minor surgery. It was either going through the surgery and expediting the process, or wait and potentially have it not fully heal. In the case where it didn’t fully heal, the risk of reinjuring it was definitely higher. It was just like, ‘Hey, let’s just do the surgery before training camp and you will be 100 percent healthy.’”
What was your reaction to getting that phone call?
“At the moment, I didn’t think it was real. I sat there and looked at my phone, I think it was in the middle of the pick for the Detroit Lions, and I looked at my agent and said ‘Holy (shoot), it’s Cincinnati.’ And he was like, ‘Well, you’ve got to answer that.’ I answered my phone, it was Coach (Marvin) Lewis. We were talking. Then coach (Frank) Pollack, coach (Bill) Lazor. It’s just an unbelievable feeling right now. I’m oozing with emotions right now. This is exactly what I wanted in this draft. To go as high as possible, to stay home in Ohio, to stay in the Midwest, to bring the brand of Ohio State football down to Cincinnati, and to completely be able to do everything — it’s all my hopes and dreams of the NFL. It’s just unreal right now.”
You do a lot well. What do you think you do best?
“I like my tenacity and my physicality. That’s something I really pride myself on. When you’re playing football in the Midwest, you got to make sure you’re physical, make sure you’re tough, and make sure you’re imposing your will on those guys, I feel like I do a pretty good job of that when I play.”
What was your family’s reaction?
“They’re all thrilled. I am sitting outside right now, outside the house where we have a get-together. And they’re all happy because it’s just a five hour drive from Youngstown, Ohio. It’s ideal, it’s unbelievable and it’s a huge, huge opportunity. I can’t be more thankful.”
You’re in Youngstown right now?
Could you tell of the Bengals interest from your interactions with the team?
“I had a couple good conversations. I had some good conversations with Coach Lewis. Coach Pollack had texted me. I had talked to Coach Lazor a lot on my visit. It was a very good fit for me. We fit (together) very well, the conversations were flowing, they have the same philosophies we had here at Ohio State and the way that we play. It will be an easy transition.”
You wanted to go somewhere with opportunities, and here in Cincinnati, it’s opportunities galore. Is your intent to be a day-one starter?
“Absolutely. My goal is to finish up my career at Ohio State and then transition to the NFL and to set the league on fire on day one. For me, it’s that expectation to go and earn a starting job, to compete on day one, to be that plug-and-play player, whether it’s at center or guard — whatever the team wanted. In Cincinnati, it’s going to be a great opportunity. There’s a lot of pride coming along with me. I have high expectations for myself.”
Did you follow the NFL as a kid?
“Yeah, I absolutely did. Unfortunately, my stepfather is from Pittsburgh, so I grew up a (Steelers) fan. I knew very well about everything going on in this league and the Midwest brand of football.”
Is there any player that you admired or tried to emulate yourself as?
“I had the great opportunity to play with Pat Elflein, the guy who plays center for the Vikings. So I was playing with him, and learning those those traits (he exhibited), learning how to practice, how to be a college player and transitioning that into being a professional. We had a couple conversations recently about what to expect in this next transition, how to keep your body (healthy) to make sure you’re playing at the maximum, highest level. You look back at history, you look at guys like LaCharles Bentley — guys who, from day one, set a tone in the way they play. That’s something you try to imitate yourself in your play.”
You’ve made several references to Midwestern football. What does that represent to you?
“To me, it’s the toughness aspect. I was a defensive player in high school, and any time a team came to play my high school, it was to take someone’s head off. And that transitioned into college playing offensive line, my job was to take that guy’s head off across the field from me. And then, as we go into this next league, you bring that tenacity, and you bring that physicality. You just represent everything that you stand for — to represent Midwest football.”
One thing that impressed the Bengals was your football intellect. Do you feel like you can transition from Ohio State to what the Bengals are going to ask you to do pretty well?
“It’s going to be a transition. NFL offenses are significantly different, but it’s going to be an adjustment period. It’s going to be something I’ll be able to handle and take it in fully. Then in day one in training camp, or day one in preseason, I’ll be ready to go.”
What was your first impression of Frank Pollack?
“He’s intense. He’s a coach with high expectations but very intelligent as well. He threw a lot at me, and the expectation was for me to regurgitate it and spit back what he said. You have to be intelligent and you have to be quick, especially playing offensive line, and especially playing center. For me, he’s a great coach with high expectations. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to work with him.”
What do you know about the Bengals’ offensive line?
“There’s room for opportunity. I actually trained with (Bengals guard) Christian Westerman this past season, so I’m a little bit with it. But with everything going on in NFL free agency and teams trading, there has been a lot of opportunity here.”
How much pride do you have from being a two-time captain at a program like Ohio State?
“It’s significant, especially when you are voted by your peers. It just goes to show the character and representation you have for that program. You feel more respected when you are coming into the NFL. To put out maximum effort and to meet high expectations, it adds value to the (path) you are going (to follow).”
When you suffered your injury at the combine, were you trying set a record for the bench press?
“No, I wasn’t trying to set a record. I was just trying to perform. The situation (was I) may have been going too fast, and I could’ve warmed up more, so there were a couple of variables. It was a freak accident, but we are two months away from being completely cleared and 100 percent going into training camp.”
Considering you played a record 55 games before having the injury, could you believe it when it happened?
“It was sickening to be honest. It was a situation that you never thought would happen to you. All of the hard work, workouts and other various things you do for strength and conditioning, and then for that to happen at the Combine on the biggest stage of my life personally, it was shocking.”
What is your personal best at the bench?
“My highest was 37 (reps).”
How about your max bench?
“At Ohio State, we didn’t do maximum single reps. The test for us was always 225 (pounds) as many times as you can.”
When that injury happened, did you think it cost you a bundle of money? It didn’t turn out that way, but did it go through your mind?
“Absolutely. I told my roommate that I had 12 guaranteed chances this past season to present the best film to show I am the most dominant center in college football. To do all of that and then have the injury — the next thing you are thinking is I went from being a projected first-round pick to going down to third, fourth, fifth, sixth possibly. Your stomach drops. Tonight, luckily, shows it didn’t hurt me. I don’t have a word for it.”
How quickly did you realize after it happened that it wasn’t bad and that you should be fine?
“The next day when I got the MRI images, which showed it was a partial tear not a complete tear. It was a situation where I (thought it would) be OK. We will get the surgery done, be on the road to recovery and be back before we know it.”
There was no detachment in the ligament. It was just in the pectoral muscle itself, right?
Tell us something about you personally. What do you like to do away from football?
“Right now I like to travel. My girlfriend and I travel to different cities. This past year, we went to Sedona, Red Rock Mountain Ranges, and the Grand Canyon. We are big travelers and we want to see the world. We have a couple trips coming up that we would like to do, but right now we have to go and play football.”
You’ll be able to afford it ...
“Don’t tell her that.”
You mentioned your roommate. Who’s your roommate?
“My roommate’s name is Judd. He is a law student. I recently moved in with him this past season. He’s in law finals right now. He tried to call me, but I wanted to make sure I was ready for this press conference. He’s going nuts right now. It’s a big day for us.”
Maybe a future agent for players ...
“My agents right now are lawyers so I told him he just needs to get into an agency and (he’s) good to go.”
How did you wind up rooming with a law student?
“It was a new apartment complex. I signed a lease first because it is an individual-room lease, not an apartment lease. So he got paired with me. The running story is that I wanted a nice, quiet nerd. That’s what the apartment lady kept telling people. I told (her) I wanted someone who isn’t just partying and is going to take care of their academics. She translated that as a nice, quiet nerd, so that’s the running joke. That’s how I got paired with Judd.”
Is that description of Judd accurate?
“No. He’s a lot livelier. He has a great personality and is someone who I trust my truck, with so I am good to go.”