Bucs' Price reportedly punched rookie Barron

Bucs' Price reportedly punched rookie Barron

Published Jun. 20, 2012 4:23 p.m. ET

Tampa, Fla.—Defensive tackle Brian Price was a conspicuous no-show during offseason training for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, reportedly taking time to deal with the emotional toll from the tragic mid-May death of his sister in a car accident.

But now it appears there might have been additional reason for Price’s absence from both voluntary and mandatory workouts under new head coach Greg Schiano.

Walterfootball.com, which covers the NFL with a focus on the draft, reported Friday that Price punched No. 1 draft pick Mark Barron four weeks ago in a team meeting room.

Here’s what the site wrote: “Early in the morning at the start of an OTA day, the team was assembling for a meeting. Defensive tackle Brian Price told rookie safety Mark Barron that he was sitting in Price's seat. In short order, Barron was getting pummeled by Price. The third-year tackle was said to have gotten in a good number of punches before teammates pulled him off Barron. Both players were removed from the meeting as Barron's face was said to be bloodied.”

The report is based on unnamed sources and nobody from the Buccaneers is commenting officially on the matter, with players already having returned home until training camp begins in late July. But if true, the incident could have been an additional factor —  or the predominant one — in why the 23-year-old lineman did not participate in recent practices.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Price remained home in California getting into shape and rehabbing injuries with a personal trainer to get into peak shape for the season. Given his history of serious hamstring and pelvic injuries ¬– coupled with the trauma he has faced from his sister’s death — that seemed a credible scenario.

Yet if Price was still struggling to regain his emotional balance, as the alleged incident might suggest, the club might have not felt he was ready to return to One Buc Place.

And that might have been the biggest reason for the prolonged absence of the 35th overall pick of the 2010 draft — a player who battled back to the field last year after a serious injury as a rookie, one that forced him to undergo major reconstructive surgery to reattach his hamstrings to his pelvis.

The alleged fight seems out of character for Price, who normally exudes an easygoing and upbeat personality around teammates and the media. But the hit-and-run death of his sister, 33-year-old Bridget James, devastated him. He had previously lost two older brothers in gang-related shooting deaths and was extremely close with his sister.

"There is just no way to explain the grief he's feeling as a result of this loss," his agent Charles Price (not related to the athlete) was quoted as saying in the aftermath of the accident. "It's really taken quite a toll on him.''

Price had difficulty eating and sleeping after the accident and was subsequently hospitalized in Tampa for three days dealing with exhaustion and grief. He later said that he planned to adopt his late sister’s two young sons, whom he had taken to their first Los Angeles Dodgers game a day before the fatal crash.