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Pryor putting in the work with Raiders
Terrelle Pryor is trying to master two languages this offseason: Spanish and the terminology of Oakland’s new playbook.
The second-year Raiders quarterback is about to start an online Spanish class that will count toward the college degree he was unable to finish at Ohio State University. Pryor turned pro last summer after an eligibility scandal would have caused him to miss much if not all of his senior season.
“That’s one of the things that upset me about leaving college,” Pryor told me and co-host Bill Polian on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “I really wanted to get my degree and I couldn’t. It kills me.
“At the same time, I’m going to finish it up and also be the best pro quarterback I can possibly be.”
To that end, Pryor is saying — and doing — all the right things.
Pryor is working diligently to make up for a washout rookie season. Not only an avid participant in Oakland’s offseason workout program, Pryor is trying to learn from the current Raiders starter (Carson Palmer) and one of his predecessors in Rich Gannon.
Pryor said he recently spoke with former Raiders coach Hue Jackson and expressed his appreciation for the advice Palmer has provided since joining Oakland last October in a trade with Cincinnati.
“He teaches me small things on a daily basis like not lifting very heavy (weight) because you’ve got to protect your shoulder,” Pryor said. “In terms of defenses, when we’re not taking reps, he asks me what the progression and footwork is. I couldn’t imagine being with anyone better.”
Pryor has reached out to Gannon in hopes of receiving more on-field and chalkboard tutoring before the start of training camp. Pryor has even offered to pay his own way to Gannon’s home in Minnesota for the chance to work with the NFL’s 2002 Most Valuable Player and the last quarterback to lead the Raiders into the playoffs.
“I love to talk to people around the (Raiders) facility who have been here for a while and I ask all types of questions,” Pryor said Tuesday night. “All they talk about is what type of leader (Gannon) was and how he stayed in the film room. His footwork got so much better because he kept working at it. I want to be like that.”
Pryor already is receiving extensive tutoring this offseason from new Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Knapp and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo. One of the main areas of focus is bettering Pryor’s mechanics. Pryor said that he has asked DeFillippo to be “tough on him” during practices.
“You have to have perfect feet because it leads to your throw,” Pryor said. “That’s what I’m really working on — getting my feet with my progression.
“I have always heard of [New England quarterback] Tom Brady working on his feet constantly over the summer. He’s the best at it. There must be a reason why he keeps working at it.”
The 6-foot-6, 230-pound Pryor also is working to digest a West Coast-style offense that can utilize the athletic skills he displayed while leading Ohio State to a 31-4 record from 2008 to 2010.
“(Knapp) likes moving the pocket and doing drop-backs also,” said Pryor, who estimates he took 60 percent of his snaps from under center at Ohio State. “He changes the pocket of where we’re throwing an awful lot. That’s what’s great for me. I can move around but also take a five-step drop or whatever the case may be.”
The 22-year-old Pryor is still considered a long-term project because of how much time he missed as a rookie while making the transition to the NFL level. The Raiders have signed Matt Leinart as Palmer’s projected backup because of his experience with Oakland’s offense. Knapp was Leinart’s quarterbacks coach the last two seasons in Houston.
Pryor was set back when the supplemental draft didn’t take place until mid-August, which was a function of the league’s labor strife with its players union as well as initial objections to letting him qualify. By the time he was selected in the third round and signed, Pryor had missed Oakland’s entire preseason. Pryor was then suspended for the first five games under the pretense that he was trying to circumvent the NFL draft process.
Pryor wasn’t able to practice with the Raiders during the suspension. Pryor also bemoans missing the “mental reps” he couldn’t take watching Oakland’s other quarterbacks play.
“That’s huge for a young guy like me,” said Pryor, who only made what was essentially a cameo appearance in one game last season against Kansas City. “It was very tough. I’ve never been unable to compete to play before. That’s what hurt me the most.”
Those days are behind Pryor. So is any talk that the Raiders will try to convert him to play another position like wide receiver because of his physical gifts.
“I’m doing great,” Pryor said. “I worry about the things I can control. I just want to get one percent better every day. If I can do that, I’m working toward my goal.”
That’s the kind of vernacular the Raiders should be thrilled to hear.
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