Oakland Raiders quarterbacks Terrelle Pryor and Carson Palmer at OTA 2012 (photo by Levi Damien)
Second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor is in his first OTA's for the Raiders. He is out to prove not only that he can play quarterback in the NFL but that he deserves playing time for the Raiders. This is a tough, and could be futile, task for the young quarterback. Carson Palmer is the unquestioned starter and at this point, Pryor is behind Matt Leinart in the depth chart.
Pryor is not letting that dampen his belief that his playing time is directly attributed to how hard to works. He even deflected any discussion about his recent interview with Sports Illustrated, saying "I'm not going to talk about that. That's in the past."
Putting that stuff in the past is a wise move for Pryor. His focus should be on what is happening now and how it affects his future. In the realm of the present and future, Pryor's statement is simply "I'm competing to play."
Most will say that his only role on this team would involve his legs but he insists he is not just a specialty package type quarterback and should be thought of with the same passing skills as Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart... and more.
"I got a big arm too," said an adamant Pryor. "A big arm. I just happen to be able to run and that just adds onto my arsenal. If you go throughout the reads and do the right progression and throw the ball to the right spot where you want it to be, and if nothing's there and I take off, then that's a plus."
But even with the vast skill set Pryor claims to have, he still has an uphill battle.
"Carson is the starter and he's going to be the starter. But I don't put myself as I'm going to be back-up. I mean, I don't sit around saying, 'I want to be a back-up, that's what I want to be.' That's not how I operate. That's not how I want to be. I'm going to work to play. And Carson's always played well and always will. Whenever the opportunity comes for me to play, I'll play. But I'm not planning to be a back-up. Get that correct."
That certainly is the right attitude when it comes to playing. Too many times in the NFL the starter goes down and the backup isn't ready. It happened last season with Kyle Boller and the result was a disaster. Even with Leinart as the projected number two quarterback and is running with the second team, if Pryor can instill some confidence in his coaches that he gives the team a better chance to win, he will be given the chance to prove it.
"You need a quarterback to know what's going on and be able to lead the team," said Pryor. "I'm not discouraged at all that Matt [Leinart] is here. Matt's a great guy and I'm going to go about my business getting better and working hard and no one out-working me. That's how I live and that's how I do things every day, and it won't change."
Pryor got a boost in confidence earlier this week when the team released Rhett Bomar. Head coach Dennis Allen said Tuesday that Bomar was released because he was just not going to see the reps with the Raiders that he had hoped.
So while the team may feel more comfortable with Leinart as the number two, they clearly have laid it out that Pryor is going to be a member of this team. Pryor's outlook seems to improve almost daily and is a far cry from what it was last season. It has been a long hard road for him of which he said has left him "humbled" and now in a far better place.
"Big big huge improvement," said Pryor of the results of his offseason work. "Really just footwork and having a chance to learn the offense. I didn't know anything last year, nothing at all. I knew some of the stuff going into games and stuff like that but starting from Day 1 here right now when the new coaches came in. On the other hand I came in last year at the end of camp and everything was already put in. I couldn't ask the coach, the offensive coordinator. We didn't even have a quarterbacks coach so I couldn't even learn anything from that standpoint.
"I [have] spent a lot of time with Coach DiFilipio and I cleaned up the footwork, taking my feet in my progression and nothing but good results.
"Big time in terms of footwork, confidence, believing in myself. All of that stuff is miles ahead with more great things to come."
Though Pryor had just one unofficial snap in the NFL last season, he is technically a second-year player. And according to him, that is not just a technicality. He doesn't feel like a rookie.
"What I can say about last year is I learned the speed of the corners, I learned what the NFL is, in terms of, you have to get back and get rid of the ball. The rush is between the D-linemen getting to you, nothing else... So I learned the speed of the D-linemen, you've got to get the ball out fast because of them. You've got to throw at different angles.
"I'd say this is my second year. Because I learned an awful lot by taking snaps against the first team in... the practice-role doing the scout team. I learned a lot in terms of physical stuff like that."
As far as Pryor's work in practice, he is much improved from what limited looks we had of him last season, but he has a long way to go.
The "big arm" he touts is fine but it is rarely ever just about how far a quarterback can throw it. It is about touch and accuracy which are both areas he still has much room to improve. His passes still flutter some and it is easy to see that he doesn't trust his short passes. They usually either have nothing behind them or they are ankle biters.
His footwork and stance have improved greatly and it has shown in his passes. While it used to be a case of the rare tight spiral or the rare on-target pass, they are more 50-50 now. And there was one particular long pass that led Juron Criner perfectly for a would-be touchdown.
For now, however, he has impressed his offensive coordinator and head coach enough with his work ethic and improvement to give him sole possession of the number three job with an opportunity to earn more.
That is "competing to play" and that is all he can ask for at this point.