ALAMEDA – Terrelle Pryor is firmly entrenched as the Raiders backup quarterback. Only an unforeseen setback will change that, a fact that Pryor isn’t happy about but has accepted.
He has played just one series since a Nov. 10 loss to the New York Giants and spoken publicly twice since then. The team convinced him to talk Friday for the first time since Nov. 20, when he was out with a sprained knee that opened the door for Matt McGloin to steal the starting job.
It would be easy to say Pryor's free fall from grace is due to injury. That certainly expedited the process, but wavering performance and a strong start by McGloin ultimately superglued Pryor to the bench.
“I could sit here and say I disagree and this and that, but, at the end of the day, Coach Allen is our leader and he’s the one that has to make tough decisions,” Pryor said. “He made one, and it what it is.”
Pryor obviously disagrees with Allen’s choice. Any competitor would rather start than support. The switch was an somewhat surprising jolt, especially after Allen said the Raiders would “continue to try to build with him and try to grow with him."
That comment was made Oct. 15, when the team was 2-4 yet full of promise, and Pryor’s emergence was a national storyline. Looking back, it might have been a kiss of death. Pryor threw five interceptions and was sacked seven times without a touchdown between Allen’s comment and his demotion.
Demotion. Pryor isn’t fond of that term.
“I was hurt in the New York Giants game and couldn’t exactly be myself, I come back and somebody else is starting,” Pryor said. “Now it’s about pushing forward and finding ways to get better. You could always put your head down and cry and whine about it and talk behind everyone’s back about it and be very negative, but there’s another way.”
Pryor insists he’s carried himself well and remained positive through a bipolar season where he transitioned from upstart talent to Bay Area darling to a weapon collecting dust.
“I don’t look at my ups and downs as a failure,” Pryor said. “I just look at it as another experience, you know. Did I make some bad plays or throw interceptions at bad spots or difficult times in a game? Yeah. Who hasn’t? I just think it’s a sense of learning and understanding the situations in games. Have I made plays? Absolutely. It comes hand in hand. You just keep experiencing and you keep learning and you try not to make the mistakes but they happen.”
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One mistake peers above the rest. Pryor kept the severity of his sprained knee quiet from coaches before the disheartening Giants loss, and used it to excuse poor play with the press.
“Whether I was talked into going or whatever the case may be, I went out and I have to be able to handle the business for the team,” Pryor said. “Everyone counted on me to go out there and lead. It was just bad leadership on my side to make an excuse and say it was my knee. Whether it was or not, that’s one of my biggest regrets right there. Anytime you step on the field you have to make plays. You’re held accountable. That’s a moment I wish I would’ve handled differently.”
That press conference sent Pryor to the doghouse, and McGloin’s play allowed the Raiders to keep him there. He was let out for a series Sunday against the New York Jets, when he orchestrated a field-goal drive largely devoid of explosive plays. He’ll be an accent piece through season’s end, without guarantee of future use. Pryor has tied to be a good teammate and help wherever possible, deftly avoiding the pratfalls of self-pity and doubt. He’ll be ready if called upon again, and he won’t give up on trying to earn a starting job again.
“I’m going to keep getting better every day,” Pryor said. “That’s all I can control.”