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Price was right on target

Young receiver grabs passes and attention

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By Nicole Auerbach
Globe Correspondent / August 12, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - All he needed was a little time on the field.

That’s something Patriots wide receiver Taylor Price couldn’t really get last year. Active for just one game because of an abundance of veteran receivers, Price spent most of 2010 reading the playbook instead of suiting up for games.

But during last night’s 47-12 exhibition win over the Jaguars, Price got playing time - lots of it, actually - and used it in attempt to solidify a spot on the roster.

“It felt good to get out there and compete against someone else - rather than your own teammates,’’ Price said. “Get some live action and show Patriots Nation what [I] can do.’’

The 6-foot, 205-pound Price caught five passes for 105 yards and a touchdown against Jacksonville.

Though Price impressed with his speed and punt return ability, his touchdown catch was enough to turn heads on its own. Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer zipped an 11-yard pass toward the back of the end zone, and Price somehow reached out and snagged the ball for a touchdown early in the second quarter.

“It was a baseline end cut,’’ Price said. “Hoyer made the right read, put the ball in the spot, and I’ve got to give myself some room in the back of the end zone to tap my feet down, squeeze the ball.’’

Said Patriots coach Bill Belichick: “That was a tough catch on the touchdown. He had some good plays.’’

Still, the downside of increased playing time - even in the preseason - is increased risk of injury.

During a punt return late in the game, Price was hit hard and was slow getting off the field. Despite that and a few other hard hits, Price shrugged off any questions about pain or injury.

“You’re going to take those kinds of shots, but you bounce back,’’ Price said. “It’s football. It’s a contact sport, so you have to expect those things to happen.’’

A few hits weren’t enough to discourage Price after a season spent waiting in the shadows of experienced receivers such as Wes Welker and Deion Branch. Price referred to last season as his “redshirt year.’’

The Patriots drafted Price out of Ohio University in the third round, 90th overall. He was the fastest receiver at the 2010 NFL Combine, but he was slow getting to New England.

Price missed the first three weeks of organized team activities last spring because of the NFL’s rule that a player can’t join his team until his college’s graduation. Ohio’s graduation was June 12.

That set Price back a bit.

Then he found himself buried behind accomplished receivers for most of the season. In his only appearance - Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins - Price caught three passes for 41 yards.

This year feels different already.

He has worked with quarterbacks Tom Brady, Hoyer, and rookie Ryan Mallett during training camp and feels comfortable with his timing with all three. That chemistry showed last night. Price’s touchdown came on a pass from Hoyer, and he connected with Mallett for a third-quarter 50-yard catch-and-run.

Price also said he’s better versed in the playbook and more prepared to contribute immediately. That’s what he hopes to do this fall.

“I know I have the talent to play at this level,’’ Price said. “It’s just about going out there and proving to these teammates that I can play and I’m going to be where I’m supposed to be at the right time - that they can trust me and believe in me when I step out on that field.

“It’s a starting block.’’

Nicole Auerbach can be reached at nauerbach@globe.com.

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