New number, opportunity for Pryor
NAPA, Calif. -- Terrelle Pryor was out on the Raiders practice field for the first time on Friday, recognizable by his height but not by his number.
Pryor, who is 6-foot-6, was wearing No. 6. Not the No. 2 jersey he wore at Ohio State.
"Coach won't let me wear No. 2," he told a throng of reporters after practice. "Why? I don't know. You tell me. I'm just going off what coach tells me."
Here's the answer to why coach Hue Jackson has good reason not to let Pryor anywhere near the No. 2 jersey. The last Raider to wear No. 2 was JaMarcus Russell.
And the Raiders don't need any visible markers that put Pryor and their biggest quarterback bust in history in the same category.
Jersey number or not, critics already want to shove Pryor into the basket of questionable Raiders decisions: one more wasted Raiders pick, one more speed demon who can't play in the NFL, one more nutty Al Davis move. Can Pryor even play quarterback? Why did the Raiders waste a third-round pick on him? Is he another Raider bad boy?
So Pryor has a hard enough journey ahead without trotting around in a black No. 2. He arrived in California on Thursday night after a 17-hour trip from the East Coast, delayed frequently because of Hurricane Irene. It was a fitting start to his life as a Raider, because the road ahead may be stormy. It often is in Raiders Nation.
Pryor arrived in time for the Raiders last session at their Napa training camp, which has been a model of calm this season, compared to past years with staff brawls, holdouts and general dysfunction.
"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 the team."
Pryor's saga is the closest thing the Raiders have come to drama this August: he's a cast member in one of the biggest scandals to hit sports this year. He can practice with the team through the final exhibition game on Sept. 2. Then he begins serving a five-game suspension handed down by league commissioner Roger Goodell.
But Pryor doesn't sound like he's willing to set a precedent and challenge the league boss. He just wants a job.
"It's what the call was," he said. "Like I said before, I didn't have to be in the supplemental draft but I was allowed in. So I'm going to take the opportunity and I'm not going to badmouth it or give my opinion, good side or bad side. I'm glad to get the opportunity."
Pryor would like to blend into the background. He acknowledged that facing a huge contingent of media on his first day wasn't the greatest way to start.
"This, right here, probably isn't the best thing," he said. "I'm going to be quiet, talk when I'm supposed to talk and learn. I'm behind the eight ball."
When asked about the Ohio State investigation, he said, politely, "I prefer not to answer questions about the NCAA."
The biggest question right now isn't about tattoos or improper benefits. It's whether or not he can play quarterback in the NFL. He took 16 snaps on Friday, fumbling two and picking up one of those and running with it. He hung around with Jason Campbell and the other quarterbacks and stuck by Jackson's side, trying to absorb as much as he could.
"I'm 17-18 practices behind," he said. "I'm playing catch-up right now. ... It's overwhelming."
Pryor said he can't envision himself playing another position. Jackson said last week that Pryor would come into camp as a quarterback "and we'll go from there." He reiterated the point on Friday.
"The guy is big, athletic, he can throw it," Jackson said. "He looks like a quarterback, feels like a quarterback, sounds like a quarterback. I'm very excited to work with him."
That Pryor is in silver and black is no surprise. He ran a 4.36 40-yard dash on his Pro Day, which would have put him fourth at this year's NFL combine. The Raiders already have locked up the players who posted the top 40 times in the past three combines: DeMarcus Van Dyke, Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward Bey.
If the Raiders were putting together an Olympic relay team, they'd win a medal. But they're putting together a football team and, in recent years, Davis' love affair with speed hasn't won anything.
That doesn't mean Pryor is a terrible pick. The Raiders took him with their third round pick because they didn't have a fourth-round pick and believed Pryor wouldn't last until the fifth round.
And as far as the criticism that the Raiders can't afford to waste a third-round pick on a project? Let's be honest: the Raiders' recent drafts have been full of misses and they've squandered plenty of third-round picks over the past few years: DE Quentin Moses, T Mario Henderson, T Paul McQuistan. Plus, the Raiders will receive compensatory picks for losing free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha and Zach Miller.
Pryor is a project. But he won't be a big money bust like Russell, because he isn't expensive. He won't set the franchise back for years, because he wasn't the overall No. 1 pick. He's not No. 2 -- with or without the jersey.
He's No. 6 now.
"I'm ready to start fresh and learn as much information as possible," Pryor said. "I can just breath now. I'm ready to get going."