Jabari Price looks secure with Vikings entering high school reunion
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MANKATO, Minn. - Former Gophers defensive back Michael Carter was at Vikings practice in street clothes Wednesday watching his old high school buddy and football teammate, Jabari Price. On Saturday, Price likely will have a run-in with another former football standout from their high school in Pompano Beach, Florida: Arizona Cardinals All-Pro Patrick Peterson.
That must have been an impressive high school team, when the third corner of a group gets drafted to the NFL. The three went to high school in the same Florida town of about 100,000, and still keep in regular contact. Mostly, they just talk football, Price said.
"I played with Michael in Pop Warner football," Price said, smiling, as he recalled their childhood. "We grew up together, played high school football together. He went up to Minnesota [for college]. He kind of convinced me to come to Minnesota but I backed out. Me and Mike, we go back, man."
Instead of making good on his original decision to go to the University of Minnesota, Price went to North Carolina to be closer to his family in Florida, he said. Now, Price is a seventh-round draft choice competing in Vikings camp in Mankato for a job on the 53-man roster.
While it's not a lock, that job appears to be secure heading into the team's second preseason game against Peterson's Cardinals.
Price currently appears to be slated as the backup slot corner in nickel packages, where Captain Munnerlyn is the starter. There's value enough in a backup at that position that if the Vikings think Price will fill that role, he'd be a cinch to make the team. Of course, the rest of the defensive secondary has struggled to stay healthy, so Price also could be in the mix for work on the outside as a corner, in addition to a potential contribution on special teams, whether it's punt coverage or punt return.
He said he played nickel corner in college, so "I have some recent experience at that position," but he's also played on the outside for most of his life, he said.
While Price may be closing in on a job, and Peterson is well-established, Carter recently ran into a speed bump on his path to make the pros. He was cut from Buffalo Bills camp Sunday and hopes to latch on with an NFL team. He said he's received calls from the Ravens and Texans, but that hasn't turned into a job yet.
Price, for his part, said the biggest adjustment he's learning to make is in his head.
"Mental capacity," Price said. "You see guys out there with 4.6, 4.7 [40-yard dash times] starting on some teams. It's all mental at this point, it's not how fast you run or how high you jump, it's the mental aspect and who's prepared the best."
He credited defensive backs coach Jerry Gray with helping smooth the transition from college to the pros, and helping him understand the importance of preparedness.
"We break down tape, he's getting me out of that college mentality," Price said. "He's trying to make me a better pro. How to study tape, how to correct our mistakes, how to be more consistent."
And how is that going?
"That's coming along great. I don't want to stop now. I don't want to hit any bumps in the road, I want to continue to build on what I know now and continue to grow as a player," Price said.
The Peterson-Carter-Price trio is watching out for each other, as well. Price trained with Peterson this offseason in Phoenix, Ariz., as the rookie was preparing for his first NFL training camp.
"We talk football, we watch each other play, we talk alignment," Price said. "We try to correct each other."
Peterson, if he can, probably will provide some pointers along the way. Just don't expect that advice to come before the Cardinals and Vikings square off Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium. Even given their friendship, Price doesn't think he'll get dinner with Peterson when he's in town. He has a job to do.
Heck, he has a job to earn.
"We're that close, but it's straight business," Price said. "I know he's probably going to let me do my thing until the end of the game, then correct me and talk football at the end."
"I wish the best for him but I want to win."