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Patriots' Price eyes long look

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / November 4, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH - The injuries have healed. He has learned the plays. Wide receiver Taylor Price is ready to be more involved in the Patriots’ offense.

Earlier this week, offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien said the time has come to get Price more reps.

Yesterday, the second-year player said he is ready for the challenge.

“I’m excited to get on the field more,’’ Price said. “It’s never a good situation to stand on the sideline and watch your team play. You always want to be in the game and be in those close games and go into battle with your teammates.

“Nothing has changed for me. I’m going to keep going to practice every day, keep preparing every day, keep working hard, and see where it takes me.’’

Price has played a snap here and there, but hasn’t had the consistent playing time needed to establish chemistry with Tom Brady.

The Chad Ochocinco experiment isn’t paying off and the Steelers revealed there is a way to stop this high-powered offense. It seems like a good time to work Price into the mix. But he knows that before he can become more involved, he has to gain Brady’s trust.

“That’s a big part of it obviously,’’ Price said. “He runs the show. Get on the same page with him and you’re good to go after that.’’

Against the Steelers, Brady targeted Price once on a deep route. Price took off downfield and beat his guy, but Brady was pressured out of the pocket and released a ball that was off the mark.

Price, 24, missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. Once he healed, he was active but did not play. It wasn’t until the Patriots played the Cowboys Oct. 16 that Price made his season debut.

“He’s like any young player and veteran player,’’ Brady said. “We’re all trying to be consistent with what we’re doing and whatever role our coach gives us, we’re trying to do it the best you can. That goes for the receiver position, running back position - there are young guys at that position as well that could obviously help the team. Any time you’re on the active roster, you have an opportunity to help the team.

“That’s what you’re trying to go out there and do every day at practice. It’s about gaining the trust of your teammates and coaches so that you’re able to go out there and do it with confidence in the game.’’

Price was taken out of Ohio with a third-round pick in 2010, but only saw the field in the season finale. He caught three passes for 41 yards in a 38-7 win over the Dolphins.

One area that Price believes he can help is in stretching the field.

Brady has completed 9 of 31 passes launched at least 20 yards downfield, according to Profootballfocus.com. Those nine completions have totaled 294 yards and have led to two touchdowns. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton has completed a league-best 25 of 55 deep passes for 860 yards and four touchdowns.

Price said he hopes his speed can complement the offense.

“That’s something I’ve done since I’ve been playing receiver,’’ Price said. “I always could go deep, stretched the field, and had the speed and the hands. I think that’s an added dimension I can bring to this team.’’

Tight end Rob Gronkowski has been an ideal target for Brady in certain situations down the field, but the quarterback said the Patriots can take advantage of a few more chances.

“At times, we’ve done a pretty good job of that,’’ Brady said. “There’s times when you come out of the game like, ‘Man we should’ve taken more shots at down the field.’ It’s usually easier to say that after the game than before the game.

“You’re always going into the game with plays and you’re always going into the game going, ‘OK, well, we got to throw it short, medium, deep, or wherever they aren’t covered. That’s where we’re going to throw.’ You really don’t go into too many games thinking, ‘Well, we’re not going to throw it deep today. We’re going to have to take our shots and if they’re back there then we’re going to have to check it down.’ ’’

The Patriots were held to a season-low 198 passing yards in the 25-17 loss against the Steelers and any tweak to the offense may be welcomed. Earlier this week, O’Brien said Price has been progressing.

“He’s practiced well. We need to get him in there more,’’ O’Brien said. “He’s done a good job in practice. He’s a guy that we have to give him some more reps in the games.’’

Price said he is no longer battling any discomfort or limitations.

“My leg’s feeling good. That’s a big part of it,’’ Price said. “I can be out there more consistently, putting practices back to back, and putting games back to back. Be more consistent and be out there more . . . If you see someone out there every day and they’re improving every day, that’s a good sign.’’

Price said he has been watching more film, staying after practices, and trying to learn as much as he can. If the Patriots are ready to use him more, Price said he is ready.

“I’ve always had confidence in myself and my game. It’s just a matter of getting comfortable in the offensive system and with the quarterback and getting on the same page and just being there, being reliable for the quarterbacks to go to,’’ Price said.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @monwalker.

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