Rookie center Billy Price, the Bengals' No. 1 pick, isn't scheduled to make a snap until training camp but he's already making an impact.
After hooking on as one of the three try-out players that survived last weekend's rookie minicamp, Oklahoma State center Brad Lundblade saluted Price for helping him out with the playbook while he made the majority of the snaps.
And Lundblade had a bunch on his plate with his second rookie minicamp in as many weeks.
He had been signed by Seattle right after the draft and then got cut last Monday after the Seahawks' camp. He flew back home to Dallas, then flew here for the Bengals' minicamp, where Price's absence meant the center was going to get plenty of work. He brought just enough clothes for the weekend, so when the Bengals signed him Sunday Lundblade spent this Monday asking his parents to ship some clothes Cincinnati way.
"It was challenging," Lundblade said of learning the scheme while practicing. "It was challenging because I was in Seattle the week before. Getting two brand new systems thrown at you in back-to-back weeks was challenging. Billy … for two weeks (had been) learning the playbook and he was able to help me out and I feel like I was able to pick up everything pretty well.
"He kind of had a jump start, so when I came in here getting all of this stuff thrown at me he was able to kind of help me out."
Price heard the compliment and countered, "I thought he was helping me out. Really, he was helping me out. I think the big thing is you help each other by talking it through."
Whatever, Price's Ohio State-record-55-straight-starts reliability is as advertised. He's been sidelined since the scouting combine bench press with a torn pectoral muscle, but since he got drafted two-and-a-half weeks ago Price spent those first two days in offensive line coach Frank Pollack's pocket. When he went back to Columbus he stayed in constant cyber contact until he returned for the minicamp and went back to the classroom.
Price knows enough that he helped a guy get a contract. Lundblade didn't overwhelm the Bengals with his athletic ability, but he displayed plenty of brains as he navigated the weekend, the No. 1 attribute for an NFL center. No surprise there. Lundblade received nearly every major academic award while at Oklahoma State. He's one of only two players in school history to earn CoSIDA Academic All-America first-team honors twice.
Not to mention the Bengals also liked the fact he knew what he was doing at both guards despite only playing center in Stillwater. Lundblade came out of school wise enough to know he needed to know how to also play guard if he had any shot at all to stick in the league, so he signed up to work with Duke Manyweather, a Dallas-based offensive line consultant.
"It's not all that different," Lundblade said. "The angles are different. You have to understand the quarterback is not right behind you. It was a little uncomfortable at the beginning, but the more I got out there I felt good about it."
No problem for Lundblade walking on to the NFL. That's how he became the three-year anchor of an offense that last season led the nation in passing, finished second in total offense and first downs, third in pass efficiency and fourth in scoring. The Cowboys became the first offense in Big 12 history with a 4,000-yard passer (Mason Rudolph), a 1,000-yard rusher (Justice Hill) and two 1,000-yard receivers (James Washington and Marcell Ateman). And Lundblade went with them from walk-on late in 2014 to first team all-Big 12.
"I'd say it's similar," Lundblade said. "I think being a walk-on you have to start at the bottom and being an undrafted free-agent rookie you have to start at the bottom, too. It's a situation I'm comfortable with and I'm just excited to be here. Starting from the bottom is great because you have nothing to do but work and that's what I'm here to do."
At the very least the Bengals have two young centers that are going to know the offense cold. After his first practice as a Bengal Monday, Lundblade, wearing Bengals' togs until his clothes get here, grabbed lunch and a table with Price and another undrafted rookie, tackle Austin Fleer of Colorado Mesa, and they opened their iPad playbooks as well as their appetites.
"(Price) has done a great job," Lundblade said. "It's been good to work with him the last couple of days. I feel we've developed a good relationship."
It appeared to be a snap.