ALAMEDA, Calif. – For the sake of Terrelle Pryor, the only quarterback in the NFL with a starting job that he's not allowed to admit to having, let's hope the Oakland Raiders' playbook contains some real fancy deception. At least something more cunning than the transparent charade still playing out in Raider Nation, where head coach Dennis Allen continues to pretend that Pryor isn't his Week 1 starter. Even though he is.
Pryor looks like a starter, taking first-team snaps at every practice this week. When interviewed earlier in the week, Pryor talked like a starter, dropping hints that broke through the faux cloak of mystery and confirming the secret that isn't.
Sure, he might not be a starter for long, if his throwing doesn't improve and his preseason struggles continue. But the fact is that unless Allen has pulled off sleight of hand of epic proportions, Pryor will be the man under center when the Raiders visit the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, and he deserves better than to be undermined in such embarrassing fashion.
Why the pretense? Why not get it out into the open? Why leave Pryor wondering why he doesn't get to experience the basic privilege afforded to 31 other NFL QBs of being able to freely discuss his next start? Only the second of his career, no less.
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"I think the players know exactly what we are doing," Allen told reporters on Thursday."There is a clear plan on what we are doing inside this building. There is absolutely a clear plan as to what we are doing."
That clarifies that, then.
Except that Pryor gets to stumble around in a state of limbo, presumably confused as to why his coach won't stand up and say "this is my guy," while preparing to be thrown to the wolves as part of an under-strength team with a desperately thin offensive line.
Wouldn't it be fun if it was all a ruse? If as soon as the reporters were ushered away from training and the cameras switched off it was actually Matt Flynn, or even Matt McGloin, who switched spots with Pryor? Or maybe they have good old Ken Stabler out back, ready to be pressed into emergency action?
But he isn't, and they won',t and the reality is that Pryor is a 24-year-old QB getting pushed headfirst into the deep end, without even the satisfaction of being able to boast to the world that in this corner of the NFL universe, he is the man.
"[Coach] doesn't want me talking about it," Pryor told reporters Wednesday, and on Thursday he had a team meeting preventing him from fielding further queries.
He has little choice but to toe the company line, with reports suggesting his appointment has not convinced all in the organization, senior figures apparently believing undrafted rookie free agent McGloin offers the biggest long-term upside.
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When Pryor left Ohio State in wake of the tattoo scandal that saw him and five Buckeye teammates suspended for the opening five games (or opening 10 halves, in updated NCAA parlance) of the 2011 collegiate season, his NFL prospects looked slim. He was the final draft selection of the late Al Davis, being taken in the third round of the supplemental draft as a project based on his athleticism.
"He has grown up mentally," said offensive lineman Khalif Barnes."He used to get frustrated a lot with little things and wouldn't be into doing the extra work that he is doing right now."
Allen insists the refusal to announce the starter is to maintain a competitive advantage and interfere with Indianapolis' preparations. Colts head coach Chuck Pagano was kinder than he needed to be when quizzed on the matter, but secretly he must be chuckling to himself.
"It is easier to prepare when you come out and say who the guy is," Pagano said."You deal with it and you get the plays in that you feel you are going to see. We know that both guys are capable."
Allen could have called off the ruse. That, at least, would have been a signal of confidence, albeit a symbolic one. After a preseason where Pryor went 17-for-32, with one touchdown, one interception and a 59.5 passer rating, Pryor will take whatever props he can get right now. So will the Raiders, following a 2012 campaign of 4-12 misery that doesn't figure to get any better.
Thursday brought only more foul news, with offensive tackle Menelik Watson's knee injury still keeping him out. Throw in a receiving core that has no standout performer and a creaky defense, and you can see why many have tapped the Raiders as front-runners in the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes.
Charades and secrets, yep, it's all fun and games again in Oakland. This is one place where the games before the games might be the most entertaining.