|Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press|
|Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Brian Price was a second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft coming out of UCLA.|
Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Brian Price is an emotional and physical mess. He is irate that a reporter allegedly criticized him -- a frequently injured former second-round draft pick -- for not showing at the team's first organized team activities under new coach Greg Schiano.
"I heard someone said that he'd better have a death in the family or something like that for me not being there," Price said.
Price did have a death in the family.
His sister, Bridget James, was killed in a hit-and-run accident two weeks ago. She was 33, 10 years older than Price. It isn't the first family tragedy to strike Price either. When he was growing up in Los Angeles, two brothers also were murdered.
"It was very hard to see my mom go through that [expletive] again," Price told NFL.com from his home in Tampa on Friday. "Bridget was my homey, my best friend. She was everything and she was very protective about me. ... Every inspirational text she sent me, I teared up. It always was special when it came from her. I don't know. It's hard.
"I want to vent and cry. I never cried. I wasn't raised to cry. Even when I was looking at my brothers' caskets, I didn't cry. Some days, it hits me. I'm sitting here and I can't believe she's gone."
Price is home now, released after spending three days in a Tampa area hospital. He was sent by the Bucs' team doctor after arriving at the facility earlier this week, sick from exhaustion, dehydration and other maladies. Price said he's barely slept since his sister's death. His physical downturn was compounded by chugging energy drinks because he typically got tired during the day, when things had to get done. That added nausea, vomiting and stomach issues.
Price said the Bucs have been very supportive, although few knew what he was dealing with until recently.
"When [Schiano] came in, one of the first things he told us was he was family-oriented. And he's a man of his word," Price said. "He told me to take as much time as you need with your family. He's a good guy."
With all this, Price said he can't think of himself. Bridget has two young sons who have been orphaned. He wants to adopt them, but is waiting for the family to get through this tough period before deciding what the next step will be regarding their futures.
"Taking those kids is my first instinct," Price said. "Bridget was my best friend and when she passed away you think about the effect this has on a 9-year-old and 6-year-old. They lost their mom. I put myself in their shoes and it broke my heart even more. I know how I felt when my brothers were killed and I wanted to cry but never cried. I told them it's OK to cry because you become more of a man when you cry."
For now, Price's mother is taking care of his nephews, who have returned to school. They're trying to get on with things to some degree and so is Price.
Price plans to join his teammates at offseason workouts beginning Monday, though he won't be at full strength. He's had major hamstring problems caused by hip and pelvis disorders that were repaired surgically. The pain before his surgery last year was brutal and it's still severe even on good days. Price said he contemplated having another procedure this offseason but opted against it. He said he knows he has to get on the field and be productive.
"I don't have the time for that," Price said of another operation. "I'd rather go through pain."
That's saying a lot because, for Price, pain carries multiple meanings. He has a coping mechanism, though, one that's been emblazoned in his psyche since he was a kid.
"Somebody is going through worse," he said. "You can look at people in Africa. I know that's the example that's always used, but it's true -- people are going hungry. People are going hungry here, in our neighborhoods. They have it worse.
"People have lost their whole families in car crashes. Whole families! How can I cry about what I go through?"
Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89