FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) _ Peerless Price insists the vision in his right eye is fine, even though an ophthalmologist diagnosed him with a retinal disorder last summer.
Neither the Atlanta Falcons nor their No. 1 receiver will cite a specific reason for his drop-off in production this year. Price has only 32 catches, by far his lowest amount since becoming a starter with Buffalo in 2000.
There's nothing wrong with me, man,'' Price said Wednesday.Just trying to help my team win.''
When the season ends, Price plans to undergo a procedure to fix the problem that's forced him to wear a protective shield on his helmet this season.
It's laser surgery, and we'll do it sometime in February, but it's not corrective surgery,'' Price said.It's for my retina.''
His ophthalmologist discovered the disorder during a routine checkup for his contact lenses. Because surgery would require him to miss at least a couple of weeks, Price decided to wait until after the season to undergo the procedure.
Many NFL players use a protective shield for similar problems, but the league first must receive a written diagnosis from a physician. Price does acknowledge occasionally struggling with the glare created when the shield is held up to bright lights.
I don't like playing in it,'' Price said.But I can't afford to risk someone poking me in eye or anything like that.''
Acquired from the Bills for a first-round draft pick and later given a $10 million signing bonus as part of a new contract, Price caught 64 passes for 838 yards and three touchdowns last year.
Those numbers were far from his career year of 2002, but Price believed playing a full season alongside quarterback Michael Vick could help him approach his statistics from his last year in Buffalo (94 catches for 1,252 yards and nine scores).
The Falcons (11-4) will travel to Seattle (8-7) for their final regular season game this week.
Not all of Price's difficulties are attributable to him. First, the offense has spent just 15 games under first-year coordinator Greg Knapp, who brought from San Francisco a derivative of the West Coast playbook the 49ers used to win four Super Bowls.
Vick, arguably one of the league's all-time improvisational playmakers, has looked awkward at times, particularly when throwing from the pocket. Only 24, Vick is a lethal runner he leads the NFL with 7.6 yards per carry but an inconsistent passer _ he's 24th among quarterbacks with at least 10 starts.
Second, Atlanta's offensive strength is a rushing attack that leads the NFL. With 164.5 yards rushing, the Falcons average 13.7 more than they do in the air. They rank 30th in passing.
Third, Atlanta's top receiver is tight end Alge Crumpler, who already has career highs in catches, receiving yards and touchdowns.
Price has tried to worry less about his production and focus on his team's strength in the running game.
You can have a great season individually and then be losing as a team, but that's even worse,'' Price said Wednesday.We must be doing something right.''
Everyone from head coach Jim Mora, Knapp, general manager Rich McKay to position coach George Stewart says Price plays hard and runs good routes.
We're a little different than the New England Patriots, who've had their team together for a long time,'' Mora said.We're definitely different from the Indianapolis Colts or the Philadelphia Eagles, teams that have had their systems in place for a number of years. We've had 15 weeks to put our systems in, so we're just starting. We're neophytes.''