CHARLOTTE -- All season long, Terrelle Pryor has played the role of good soldier.
The third-string quarterback has said the right things about biding his time, about learning at the knee of Carson Palmer, about waiting for his time to come and not being impatient or frustrated.
But after Palmer was knocked out in the first quarter, Matt Leinart was uneven and Pryor was used as a wrinkle three times in the Raiders' 17-6 loss to Carolina Sunday, might Pryor have shown a glimpse of his true feelings?
Pryor, who simulated Panthers' quarterback Cam Newton on scout team, was actually downgraded in practice this week.
Asked about playing, Pryor was tight-lipped: "It's just playing football, you know? It's what I've been playing my whole life. It's something I like to do."
On what his plays showed: "I just do what I'm asked to do and that's it. Whatever I show, I show."
On if he thought he should have been used more: "I'm just a player. I don't have any expertise in coaching."
On if he expects to play more next week: "Not sure. I know I played three decent plays, but I didn't play a lot."
On how he seemed more upset than usual: "I'm upset that we lost. I think we should have won and more plays we could have made. But it's the game of football. They get paid just like us. Hats off to them. We'll go in next week and do the same thing and get back to week."
On potentially seeing more playing time: "Like I said, I'm not the coach. I definitely don't make decisions like that. I don't talk much, I just go out and do my job. Whatever God has for me, it's going to happen. If not, I'll be fine."
Pryor was not surly, but close, and it was obvious from his tone that he wanted to be anywhere else. And really, could you blame him?
In his mind -- and in the mind of his growing legion of supporters -- he probably felt he could have helped the Raiders more had he been on the field for more than three plays.
On his first play, which was the Raiders' second play from scrimmage, he lined up in the Wildcat, took the direct snap and passed the ball out to Palmer on the right. Palmer quickly threw back to Pryor, who scooted 22 yards upfield.
On his second play, early in the second quarter, Pryor took the direct snap from the Panthers' 9-yard line on second-and-8, and while it appeared to be a read-option, Pryor kept the ball all the way and ran up the middle for a two-yard gain.
And on his third play, early in the fourth quarter, and with the Raiders at the Panthers' 8-yard line on first-and-goal, Pryor lofted a pass to Marcel Reece, who was pushed out of bounds at the 3-yard line.
That was it. And if you thought Pryor should have seen more time…
"Matt's our back-up quarterback," said coach Dennis Allen. "Terrelle's done a nice job. He's working extremely hard. We don't feel like he's ready to be the backup quarterback yet, and we feel like Matt would give us the best chance."
And there it is.
We don't feel like he's ready...yet.
"Although, we feel like using Terrelle in some of the packages and some of the things like we did with him today -- the pass down there in the red zone, also the throw-back screen to start the game off (on) the second play of the game -- I mean, those are some of the things that we feel like we can use him in right now," Allen added, "until he develops even more as a quarterback."
Perhaps Pryor seeing Cam Newton run the Panthers' offense gave him a bigger sense of self? And really, on the flip side of that coin, maybe Pryor could have thrown just as ugly an interception as Leinart did late in the second quarter.
And if Pryor is not ready, how does he get ready in a lost season with one game to go unless he gets to play?
Or, he must really be bad to not get into this kind of game that screamed for a spark, any spark, to get the offense going.
Then there's this -- Pryor only has a handful of plays at his disposal, and they are "specialized" wrinkles, not the full playbook, whereas Leinart has not only knowledge of said playbook, but also the trust of the coaching staff.
And oh yeah, there was that whole bit about Pryor being downgraded this week, too.