By Steve Corkran
Friday, August 26th, 2011 at 3:08 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Raiders coach Hue Jackson on Friday did his best once again to keep the focus on the players who will be there for the regular-season opener. But there was no way around quarterback Terrelle Pryor stealing the spotlight on the final day of training camp in Napa.
Pryor signed a four-year contract Thursday night and was on the field for the final practice. Jackson made sure Pryor wasn’t there to watch, either.
Pryor showed up in a No. 6 jersey, not the No. 2 he wore in college at Ohio State.
“Coach won’t let me wear No. 2,” Pryor said. “Why, I don’t know? You tell me. He won’t let me wear No. 2. I’m just going off what coach tells me.”
We’ll help him out with that, given he’s new in town. No. 2 was the number worn by quarterback JaMarcus Russell from 2007 until he was released before the 2010 season.
The Raiders selected Pryor in the third round of the supplemental draft, in part, because Russell turned into a collossal bust as the No. 1 pick of the 2007 NFL draft.
Pryor arrives without the gaudy contract that Russell received — $32 million guaranteed — but he faces much of the same scrutiny.
Chief among the curiosity is whether Pryor can succeed at quarterback in the NFL.
So far, so good, according to Jackson.
“The guy is big, athletic,” Jackson said. “He can throw it. He looks like a quarterback, feels like a quarterback, sounds like a quarterback, and I’m very excited to work with him.”
Pryor said he is more concerned with what Jackson and his other coaches think than he is about those outside the organization.
“No, I don’t have (anything to prove),” Pryor said. “Obviously, anytime you come in fresh, you have something to prove. I’m just trying to get better. I’m not here to answer any critics. I’m just trying to answer myself. I’m the biggest critic. I don’t really hear the other critics anyway. I’m the biggest critic and I’m just trying to prove it to myself. That’s all I’m trying to do.”
Pryor attempted nine passes in full-team drills Friday. He completed four, though three were short passes just beyond the line of scrimmage. The only deep pass he threw was underthrown and well behind wide receiver Chad Jackson, who made a nice adjustment and impressive catch.
Several of Pryor’s passes fluttered and were well wide of the mark. Rookie tight end Richard Gordon failed to catch Pryor’s best-looking throw, a laser-like pass across the middle.
In fairness to Pryor, he spent 17 hours traveling to Oakland on Thursday, likely didn’t get much sleep and was thrust into the mix without much preparation.
“Not nervous, but you’re getting so much information and you’re just trying to … my mind wants to accomplish it, I want to accomplish it,” Pryor said. “But it’s just overwhelming.”
Pryor is permitted to practice through next week and play in the Raiders exhibition games Sunday and Sept. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks before he begins a five-game suspension.
It’s unlikely Pryor will play this Sunday. However, Jackson said it’s quite possible that he will give Pryor some time in the exhibition finale.
Once that game ends, Pryor has to begin his suspension for his role in violations that occurred at Ohio State. He is eligible to resume practicing with the Raiders at the start of Week 6 in the regular season.
*Pryor’s debut overshadowed the arrival of veteran cornerback Lito Sheppard. He was signed Friday morning, given former Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha’s old No. 21 and thrown into the mix, as well.
Jackson said Sheppard was signed because he makes the Raiders better in the secondary and not because of injuries to starter Chris Johnson and rookie backup DeMarcus Van Dyke.
Sheppard isn’t expected to play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. He said he expects to play a significant role in the defense before long, though.
“It’s a fairly young group,” Sheppard said. “They definitely want to see some veteran leadership around and once I get in shape, a little game shape, I’ll definitely be a big part of whatever they have planned.”
Sheppard is a former Pro Bowler who excelled for many seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. He said he also received interest from the New York Giants before he settled upon the Raiders.
He relishes the opportunity to play some more man-to-man, a staple of the Raiders defensive philosophy.
“That’s what I primarily did the majority of my career,” Sheppard said. “It’s definitely tough on the corners but, hey, that’s what I do, that’s what got me into this league and, obviously, that’s what’s going to keep me around or take me out.”
*The Raiders are just about set at every position, Jackson said, with the notable exception of the offensive line.
Even that is beginning to sort itself out. More and more, it’s looking as if the starters are going to be: Jared Veldheer, Stefen Wisniewski, Samson Satele, Cooper Carlisle and Khalif Barnes.
Second-year player Bruce Campbell, rookie Joseph Barksdale and veterans Stephon Heyer and Daniel Loper remain starting candidates, but they didn’t get many reps with the starters Friday.
*This camp went on for a month without any major issues arising or taking away from the football team.
It’s been many years since that has been the case. In recent seasons, there always seemed to be something distracting from the action on the field.
It was either coach Lane Kiffin sniping at managing general partner Al Davis, Russell holding out, coach Tom Cable getting in an altercation with an assistant coach or wide receiver Jerry Porter being at odds with coach Art Shell.
“That’s the way it should be,” Jackson said. “I don’t want drama. It’s hard to become a good football team when there’s a bunch of drama surrounding your team.
“We head into this season on a clean slate when it starts. Everybody is going to start zero-zero, with no issues, and we’re going to roll out the ball and start playing.”
*Jackson said he still hasn’t decided how long his projected starters are going to play against the Saints. It’s worth noting that the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins starters still were going at it well into the third quarter on Thursday night.
Given this is the Raiders third game, this is the game when the starters will see their most action.
*Starting middle linebacker Rolando McClain began practice in full uniform. Before long, he was on the sideline for the third straight practice.
Jackson insists that McClain is fine, and McClain appears fine, as well. No word on whether he will play Sunday or if he’s just working through a nagging injury.
*The Raiders released rookie quarterback Jordan La Secla and offensive lineman Alan Pelc to make room on the roster for Pryor and Sheppard.
*Tight end Brandon Myers and receiver Steve Goulet returned to practice. Also, Heyer participated in full-team drills for the first time since he strained his right triceps almost two weeks ago.
Offensive lineman Roy Schuening’s left hand/arm is in a sizable cast. No word from Jackson on how Schuening suffered his injury or how long he is out for.
*Rookie running back Taiwan Jones received extensive reps Friday, and he made the most of every one.
On one play, he hauled in a quick screen from Campbell in the backfield, turned the corner and raced past any defender who approached. He also made a nice cut near the goal line on a screen pass, eluded the nearest defender and continued into the end zone.
Jones missed Oakland’s first two exhibition games with a hamstring injury. He is expected to play Sunday for the first time since he was drafted by the Raiders.
*The Raiders have a walk-through in Alameda at their year-round facility Saturday. They will be off Monday before beginning their in-season schedule at Alameda.