Terrelle Pryor made his first NFL start for the Oakland Raiders in the 2012 season finale.
It might not be his last.
Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said Tuesday night at the Senior Bowl that Pryor will have a chance to compete for the first-string job this summer in training camp.
“He needs to see if he can take a game over in the preseason, make some plays and carry out a game plan,” McKenzie told me and co-host Jim Miller on Sirius XM NFL Radio. “Let him compete. That’s what it’s all about. If it looks like he can help us win, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what we want.”
Pryor didn’t win his starting debut last month in Week 17 against San Diego. But he did show marked improvement from the preseason during that 24-21 road loss. Although he completed only 13 of 28 passes for 150 yards with an interception, Pryor threw for two touchdowns and made plays with his legs. He rushed nine times for 49 yards while adding another score.
“It was good to see him go in and implement a game plan,” McKenzie said. “He carried it out, played the game through and showed us what he can do. He definitely flashed some things that we’re going to try and see what we can do with him in the offseason.”
Carson Palmer started Oakland’s first 15 games last season before being sidelined by a rib injury. The Raiders were 4-11 with Palmer under center. Three of those victories came against the teams that finished 2012 tied for the NFL’s worst record at 2-14 – Jacksonville and AFC West rival Kansas City.
Not all of Oakland’s woes were his fault, but Palmer has failed to become the franchise quarterback the previous Raiders regime thought it was acquiring when sending first- and second-round picks to Cincinnati for his services midway through the 2011 season.
The 33-year-old Palmer is a potential candidate for release because of his scheduled $13 million salary in 2013, but McKenzie didn’t indicate that such a move was in the offing.
“It was unfortunate he had to end the season with an injury,” McKenzie said. “He’s rehabbing and making sure he gets those broken ribs together (to) bounce back so he can compete.”
Pryor was one of the nation’s top college quarterbacks during three seasons at Ohio State. But his violation of NCAA rules for accepting payola along with several teammates led to Pryor entering the 2011 supplemental draft after the NFL’s regular draft was conducted. Pryor became a third-round pick but was forced to serve a five-game suspension for the “deliberate manipulation of (NFL Draft) eligibility rules.”
The ban helped make Pryor’s rookie season a washout. Pryor’s accuracy struggles in the 2012 preseason pushed him into a reserve role behind Palmer and backup journeyman Matt Leinart, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
Pryor, 23, must now impress a new offensive coordinator. The Raiders recently hired Greg Olson from Jacksonville to replace Greg Knapp, who was fired after his unit finished No. 26 in scoring average at 18.1 points per game.
“That’s fine to be a great athlete,” McKenzie said of Pryor. “We’ve got a lot of great athletes who can run. I want them to be great football players. I want them to take their game plan and execute it. Just make plays.”
Pryor’s future with the Raiders is far brighter than that of linebacker Rolando McClain. The underachieving No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, McClain was suspended two games last season for insubordinate behavior. McClain was recently arrested again when allegedly cursing at a police officer following a traffic violation in his hometown of Decatur, Ala.
Releasing him in the offseason wouldn’t cause the type of salary-cap hit that hindered the Raiders from making such a move in 2012 as McKenzie began the process of overhauling the roster.
“I have not had any conversation with any of the authorities or Rolando for that matter,” McKenzie said. “Hopefully, this matter gets resolved on his behalf.
“It’s unfortunate that these things kind of happen. I would think he would try and do whatever he can this offseason to make sure his career and personal life get on the right track.”