Leinart makes his case to start season finale

Leinart makes his case to start season finale
December 27, 2012, 4:30 pm
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ALAMEDA -- As the Raiders juggle the questions of not only who should start Sunday's season finale at San Diego -- Matt Leinart or Terrelle Pryor -- but, probably more importantly, who should get the most playing time against the Chargers, Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is experiencing a certain deja vu.

It was in Atlanta where Knapp had two signal callers with distinctly different skill sets.

"I’ve had a mobile quarterback and a pocket quarterback…with Mike Vick and Matt Schaub," Knapp said Thursday. "So, it’s a very similar mind-set for me, is that you got to have a little bit of a game plan for both available (players). But as (coach Dennis Allen) has mentioned, what we’re trying to do is get both guys ready. Both guys need reps right now because they really didn’t have any reps going into last week when Carson (Palmer) got hurt.

"We’ll know after tomorrow’s practice."

But will the Raiders announce a starter? And really, will it matter? Because starting Leinart, a seven-year veteran, and then bringing in Pryor, who is the ultimate of enticing projects, might be the change of pace the Raiders need to not only keep the Chargers off balance, but also give both players time and increase Oakland's odds at victory?

Unless, of course, you subscribe to the theory that the Raiders already know what they have in Leinart so they should just give the entire game to the unknown that is Pryor and let him sink or swim so they know what they have in him owing forward.

Except…

"To put a young guy in and have no reps with the first group at all during the season is a very hard thing to do," Knapp said. "It’s hard enough as it is with the backup, who doesn’t get any reps that’s a veteran, and it’s really not fair to a young rookie (essentially) to do that in a game, such as what played out last week. It’s so hard for a young guy to just jump in without any reps in your offense, only been doing scout team, and play right away."

No doubt Leinart has a better handle on the offense, as the season-long backup, while Pryor has been the No. 3 QB who only started dressing for games this month.

So you could kind of understand if Leinart scratched and then shook his head at this public outpouring of support for a guy technically behind him on the depth chart.

But, he's not.

"I just think, in this situation, I think I deserve to play, I deserve to start, not sure what's going to happen, but that's all you can do -- just keep preparing, keep working hard, be here, be accountable and whatever happens, whatever decision is made, that's what's made," Leinart said.

"So, if they want to start Terrelle and evaluate him and see what he can do, then I'll support that and I'll help him this week and help him during the game. But if they make me the starter…I'm just going to go out there and try to capitalize on that opportunity."

Leinart replaced Palmer when he suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung on a spear hit by Carolina defensive end Greg Hardy in the first quarter Sunday. And a rusty Leinart responded by completing 16 of 32 passes for 115 yards with an interception for a passer rating of 45.7.

"For me, the competitive person in me, I still feel I have a lot to prove at this point of my career," Leinart said. "No matter what the naysayers say, I do feel like I still can play. I do feel like that, and I think I'll play like that until the day I retire. But you're only given so many opportunities in this league. That's why this weekend would be awesome.

"But in Terrelle's (situation), he's young, he's had a big-time college career, and just given the unique dynamic of the situation, I don't think they're sure what they have in him. Because he hasn't played in a game -- just preseason. I do understand that football part of it and the business part of the game, but like I said, I can't control all that stuff."

Knapp said he could envision both playing in San Diego. Can Leinart?

"I really don't know, I have no idea," Leinart said. "You know what? I just want to play, someway, somehow. I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen."