Pryor: 'I feel like a leader in the huddle'
ALAMEDA -- Terrelle Pryor had to think all the way back to January of 2011 to recall his last start in a real football game, but the feeling of Ohio State's 31-26 win over Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl returned quickly, and so too did the memories of pregame nervousness.
Pryor confided in Carson Palmer -- whose injuries Sunday paved the way for Pryor's first NFL start -- that he was feeling nerves during practice Wednesday. And Palmer offered the sage advice you would expect from a nine-year veteran.
"I'm nervous every game until the first play is over," Pryor said Palmer told him. "He said, 'You're human. You’re supposed to be.’ When I heard that, it reminded me back in the college days I was nervous every game before the first play, too."
It was a seemingly innocuous interaction, but for Pryor, it recalled an important football feeling, one he might have lost touch with over the 727 days he will have gone between starts.
"I’m nervous but I’m also ready," Pryor affirmed.
Still-backup quarterback Matt Leinart provided additional support to the second-year quarterback.
"Nerves are natural," Leinart said. "He's worked extremely hard. He wants to get better. He's asking questions. And it will come. I think we got a good game plan in for him."
Pryor is happy with the game plan too, but his reaction insinuated he'll be happier when the plan can be fully tailored to his skill set.
"I think we have some good things in, obviously," Pryor said. "A lot of things couldn’t be in because of the fact we didn’t have a lot of time."
Not having a lot of time is a familiar feeling for most young quarterbacks. Across the bay, Colin Kaepernick is navigating those rough waters, and he is having some difficulty getting in and out of the huddle. Over the past few weeks, sideline timeouts have repeatedly rescued the 49ers from a delay of game penalty.
Don't expect Pryor to fall victim.
"I can guarantee this," the 23-year-old quarterback stated. "I won’t have a problem with that, of being in and out fast. I’m very confident. I study an awful lot. That’s my job."
His job, according to his head coach, is to be relaxed, play the game like it's supposed to be played, take command of the huddle, get in and out of the huddle smoothly, run the offense, protect the ball and make good decisions.
For the most part, they are in line with Pryor's debut goals.
"No turnovers," he said emphatically. "Go through my progressions and try to be the best leader I can. That’s it. That’s all I’m really worried about."
One of Pryor's targets, receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, has noticed Pryor's commitment to leadership.
"Of course he brings the running ability," Heyward-Bey said. "But he's trying to be a leader out there, have command of the huddle and do the job that a starting quarterback should do."
In the second season of his four-year, $2.36 million contract, Pryor is showing serious progress -- both mental and physical.
"I felt like a leader in the huddle when I was in there (this week)," Pryor said.
Feeling like a leader in front of tens of thousands of crazed Chargers fans Sunday will be a different story altogether.
"It's different once you get in the game," Leinart acknowledged. "But that's why this will be a good opportunity to see what he can do with live bullets flying."
And you didn't get the sense that Leinart was hoping one of those bullets would find its mark, either; Pryor has the support of his teammates, his coaches and Raiders fans.
A 21-year-old Pryor threw for 221 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for another 115 yards in the Buckeye's Sugar Bowl win two years ago.
Anything close to such a Terrelle Pryor performance would give Raider Nation a cause for serious optimism following an otherwise bleak 2012 campaign.