LANDOVER, Md. — Terrelle Pryor figured playing quarterback in the NFL wasn’t his thing when he was cut four times in 13 months.
Now a wide receiver, Pryor will go against the team that drafted him when he and the Washington Redskins face the Oakland Raiders on Sunday night. Still thankful to late Raiders owner Al Davis for taking a chance on him in the 2011 supplemental draft, Pryor believes his struggles in Oakland helped him prepare for the twists and turns of his career.
“When things happen that are negative or bad things happen to me now, from playing quarterback I think I’ve been through that road, so it’s nothing,” Pryor said. “You just move on, get to the next day and continue to work on your game, continue to work on yourself and all things will come to light eventually.”
Pryor was a three-year starter at Ohio State as a quarterback but completed just 56.3 percent of his passes in 15 games for the Raiders while throwing for nine touchdowns and 12 interceptions. After Oakland traded him to Seattle for a seventh-round pick, Pryor was released by the Seahawks, Chiefs, Bengals and Browns between August 2014 and September 2015.
During his toughest times, Pryor FaceTimed with Raiders receiver Rod Streater, who reminded him he could “whoop him” at Madden video games but also made sure his friend was doing OK while bouncing around the league.
“Obviously he wasn’t happy,” Streater said by phone Saturday. “He wanted to be with the Raiders and wanted it to work out there, and no one ever really wants to be cut. That really helped him grow and helped him become what he is now and helped him get to where he is now.”
Pryor harbored no hard feelings toward any of the teams that got rid of him, especially the Raiders, who went 3-7 with him as the starter. How could he?
“The NFL’s a business at the end of the day. You have to make plays,” Pryor said. “Obviously I’m not playing quarterback no more, so it was a great decision.”
When the 6-foot-4, 228-pound Pryor decided to become a receiver, Streater said he knew right away it would work. He pointed to a 93-yard TD run against the Steelers in 2013 as a glimpse of what Pryor could do.
Pryor’s seamless transition amazes members of his old team even though Oakland’s roster has completely turned over since he was there.
“Unbelievable,” said quarterback Derek Carr, who talked to Pryor on FaceTime with Streater. “It’s something that people see and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s really cool.’ But they don’t understand how hard that is, like to play quarterback your whole life, even in the NFL, make it as an NFL quarterback, and now we’re going to move you to receiver and be successful.”
Pryor made 77 catches for 1,007 yards and four touchdowns last season but has struggled so far with the Redskins as he seeks to develop chemistry with Kirk Cousins. Coach Jay Gruden is the first to point out that Pryor’s still kind of new to this.
“People want to slam him for a dropped ball occasionally or maybe a poor route once in a while, but he’s a great athlete,” Gruden said. “He’s still developing at wide receiver and he’s already accomplished a lot of great things.”
Streater, who caught two TD passes from Pryor, thinks “there’s no roof” on his former teammate’s potential success, considering he’s getting advice from the likes of Randy Moss and Antonio Brown.
“I’ve seen him do some crazy things with his speed and his height and jumping ability, and I feel like the NFL hasn’t seen that yet,” Streater said. “Everything he’s done so far is amazing, but I feel like this season or the seasons to come he’s going to really open up some eyes and really be respected as a receiver in this NFL.”
That process is ongoing. Having previously scouted him only as a quarterback, Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said Pryor’s “skill level is getting better and better each year.”
Pryor also knows that adjusting to a new team takes time and expects things to start clicking very soon.
“I’m motivated every day,” Pryor said. “I’m looking to step up my game and do good things.”
Save for the occasional trick play, Pryor only wants to do good things as a receiver now. He’ll let Cousins take the hits and the heat for what he considers the hardest job in football.
“He has three seconds to get rid of the ball or you’ve got guys like Aaron Donald, (Khalil) Mack — the list goes on — Von Miller, hitting you in your face,” Pryor said. “And you have to throw it accurate or a guy’s going to pick you off and then you’re going to get talked about bad.”
Pryor doesn’t mind being talked about now if it takes some of the pressure off Cousins. Probably because he knows exactly what it’s like in his previous life to be criticized for every mistake.
“You got people jumping on you and the fans and the media,” Pryor said. “I don’t miss that.”
AP Sports Writer Josh Dubow in Oakland, California, contributed.