By Steve Corkran
Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 at 10:38 am in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders selected quarterback Terrelle Pryor in the third round of the NFL supplemental draft one year ago today. During that year, he has spent his time playing catch up after missing most of training camp last season and being suspended the first five regular-season games for violations committed at Ohio State.
Today, Pryor spends most of his time at the hip of veteran Carson Palmer, soaking up knowledge, learning the nuances of the position and waiting his turn.
“The suspension really screwed me,” Pryor said. “The way I came out of college and my mistakes screwed me. But right now, I’m in a good place because I’m learning from the best and I’m only going to get better, a lot better. If I can just keep on figuring out this progression thing and having my internal clock running with my feet, I can be good. I can be great.”
Pryor practiced with the Raiders for about a week last season and didn’t play in any exhibition games as a result of his late arrival.
Yet, he has dedicated himself to showing that he can play quarterback at a high level in the NFL. It’s not uncommon to see Pryor sticking around after practice to work with Palmer, and he’s never far from Palmer or Matt Leinart off the field, either.
It’s all part of Pryor’s plan to learn as much as he can from two veterans so that he is as ready as possible for when the time comes when his number is called.
For now, Pryor is honing skills and making the most of his limited reps at practice. He is projected as the third-string quarterback.
Coach Dennis Allen and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp rave about Pryor’s work ethic, demeanor and skill set. It’s the footwork, accuracy and consistency that Pryor needs to improve upon.
To that end, Pryor said, he is working double time trying to get to the point where his footwork comes naturally, giving him one less thing to worry about as he takes the snap.
“It’s a footwork thing and it’s a maturity thing,” quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo said. “He hasn’t been in this league, so it’s kind of unfair to compare him to Matt and Carson because he hasn’t played as much football or seen as many looks. But the more consistent he gets with his footwork, no doubt the more accurate he’s going to be.”
At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Pryor cuts an imposing figure at quarterback. Throw in speed uncommon at his position, and you have a dual-threat at your disposal.
Even so, Pryor said, it’s imperative that he rely less upon his running ability and concentrate on his strong arm, as well as the players around him each play.
“When you’re fast and you know you can move and run, you want to believe in your athleticism, and you don’t have to,” Pryor said. “You have guys up front that are taking care of it, you have running backs who are helping your backside. So my mindset has to be just believe and stay in there and just keep going with the footwork and progression. I’m going to get there.”
DeFilippo said Pryor is making progress in all areas.
“What we’re trying to do with Terrelle is get him better every day in terms of huddle procedure, at the line of scrimmage, and he’s done that,” DeFilippo said. “He’s improved every day and that’s what we keep preaching with him, improving every day. Obviously, you saw in the four-minute (the other day); he took off and ran for about a 40-yard gain. That’s always going to be an attribute for him is he’s going to have the ability to take off and run with it.”
Pryor’s final pass in his first exhibition game this season, against the Dallas Cowboys, didn’t sit too well with him afterward. He said he cost his team the game and talked about the need to play better.
That’s where Allen and Knapp enter the picture. They like their quarterbacks to be accountable, stand-up players, but only to a certain extent.
“That’s what our job as coaches is to kind of keep that balance for him,” Allen said. “He’s a competitor just like all the rest of us, and he’s always been used to being the best. So he’s always been very critical of himself and that’s the only way that you get better is you look at it honestly and you see where you made your mistakes and you try and get better and you correct them. And that’s our job as coaches, to help him.”
Pryor marvels at the ease with which Palmer moves his feet, goes through his progressions and throws to the proper receiver so often.
He has no illusions about challenging Palmer for the starting job. At the same time, he feels that watching and learning from Palmer is preparing him for great things in the years to come.
“Do I think I’m Carson? No,” Pryor said. “I want to be that quarterback that can run, too, and be like Carson with his feet. His feet are great. That’s what 10 years, 11 years, does for you. If I can get that down from working with him, I can be dangerous.”
In turn, Palmer speaks highly of Pryor, citing his athletic skills, work ethic and mind-set.
“We have a really good (quarterback) room, especially with Terrelle in there, another young guy just chomping at the bit for his shot,” Palmer said. “There’s a lot of competition, but it’s a good friendly competition because we’re helping each other along the way.”
Pryor remains resolute in his belief that he has what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL. He dismisses notions of his being a tight end-in waiting or converting to any other position.
In the interim, he is open to being used in whatever capacity this season, while he waits his shot at being the full-time quarterback.
“I wouldn’t mind packages and stuff like that,” Pryor said. “I wouldn’t mind because I’m not going to play right now in front of Carson because he’s a great quarterback. If he wasn’t great, I would have been truthful with you guys. I’m an honest person, I’m a straight person, and he’s a great quarterback. I’m not going to play over him right now. So, anything I can do to help the team, I would love to.”