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Patriots notebook

Price finally right after hit

Receiver now back after injury against Jaguars

By Julian Benbow
Globe Staff / August 25, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - After missing a week of practice and last week’s exhibition against the Buccaneers, wide receiver Taylor Price said he’s ready to return Saturday against the Lions.

“Can’t wait,’’ he said.

Some back-of-the-end-zone ballet work highlighted Price’s five-catch, 105-yard performance against Jacksonville in the preseason opener, but a huge hit on a late-game punt return sidelined him.

Price was leveled by Courtney Greene after fielding a punt in the fourth quarter. He left with 7:35 left and didn’t return.

Immediately after the game, Price shrugged off the hit, saying, “It’s a contact sport.’’

The Patriots never detailed the extent of Price’s injury, but he didn’t touch the field again until Monday. He continued to downplay the hit yesterday, saying, “Being tough is part of the game. You’re going to take some hits as a receiver going across the middle. Get back up and go on to the next play.

“That creates that confidence in your quarterback, that chemistry that you need. You’re going to go across and you’re going to go get those balls no matter what the situation.’’

The hit took some wind out of the momentum Price had been building in training camp. Coach Bill Belichick had praised Price’s approach, and the Jaguars game added to his résumé, but the 23-year-old is competing for the fourth receiver spot, and he knows missing a game means losing ground.

“That first game doesn’t mean anything unless you get back on the field again and prove it again, keep proving yourself,’’ Price said. “This is a league where you’ve got to prove yourself each and every week.

“I’m just treating every practice like a game day for me. Going out there, working hard, trying to make every single play. Not pressing too much, but just going out there trusting my abilities, go out there and play fast and just play football and let everything take care of itself.’’

Last season, Price played just one game. This season, he is trying to carve out a spot for himself in a crowd of wideouts (his locker is next to Chad Ochocinco’s). After spending the majority of his rookie year as an observer, Price wants to make an impact.

“One year in the system, I feel pretty good about it,’’ he said. “I learned a lot and so I think I’m ready to make that next jump from being a rookie now moving to a so-called veteran or a second year.’’

Dowling back at it Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling returned to practice Monday after going down with a leg injury the first week of camp.

Between the injury and a lockout-delayed signing, the second-round pick has missed significant reps in practice and game scenarios. But he is not dwelling on how far behind he is.

“Just happy to be out there with the team and be out there every day,’’ Dowling said. “Just getting better every day, taking it a day at a time.’’

Ankle, hamstring, and knee injuries marred Dowling’s senior season at Virginia; he played just five games. Still, the Patriots used the first pick of the second round (33d overall) on Dowling, making him the eighth defensive back they’ve taken since 2007.

“I’m just trying to get better, day by day, and be out there,’’ Dowling said. “I’m just worried about myself. That’s the only thing I can worry about right now. Everything I can possibly do to get better.’’

A Spikes report Linebacker Brandon Spikes has been missing for much of the preseason for an undisclosed reason, but he remains in good standing with the team, according to director of player personnel Nick Caserio. “Brandon’s no different than any other player,’’ Caserio said. “He’s working hard, he’s trying to get back on the field. When he’s ready to practice, he’ll be out there.’’ Spikes has not played in either preseason game and has missed numerous practices. “He’s here,’’ Caserio said. “He’s working. He’s in the meetings. He’s doing everything that we’ve asked him.’’

Reporting for duty Running back Shane Vereen returned to practice yesterday for the first time since leaving the field with a hamstring injury Aug. 3. Defensive back Josh Barrett also was on the field, practicing for the first time this preseason. Offensive lineman Nate Solder and tight end Lee Smith also practiced. Defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth practiced for the second straight day . . . The Patriots filled out their roster to 90 players by bringing back rookie offensive lineman Mike Berry. They originally signed Berry, an undrafted rookie out of Auburn, July 27. He was placed on the non-football injury list and released Aug. 2.

Foster fined

Buccaneers rookie linebacker Mason Foster was fined $20,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Patriots receiver Chad Ochocinco last Thursday, and safety Devin Holland was fined $10,000 for his hit on Danny Woodhead during a Buccaneers’ punt return.

Foster was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the first-quarter play, on which Ochocinco was going over the middle. One of the new player-safety rules being emphasized this year is that hits on “defenseless’’ players (Ochocinco was looking toward the ball and didn’t see Foster) draw the 15-yard penalty and are subject to a fine.

On Friday, Ochocinco tweeted to Foster that it was “a great hit’’ and that he would reimburse the rookie if he was fined.

Moments after news came that Foster had been fined, Ochocinco was on Twitter again, this time sending a message to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, saying he didn’t agree with the penalty for Foster and reiterating that he would reimburse him.

Foster’s agent told the St. Petersburg Times that they will appeal the fine.

Shalise Manza Young of the Globe Staff contributed to this report; Julian Benbow can be reached at jbenbow@globe.com.

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