NAPA, Calif. — Terrelle Pryor, the last draft pick made by Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, can now make a remarkable admission for an NFL quarterback.
Until this year, he didn't really know how to throw a football.
That may be a little extreme. He thought he knew how to throw, and he could pick up a ball and wing it. But his body mechanics were so inefficient and his tosses were so scattershot, he said, he had no future in the pros.
"I look back on last year, and I just knew I wasn't ready," said Pryor, 23, entering his third NFL season and now an intriguing figure in the Raiders' quarterback mix, probably as a change-of-speed option to presumed starter Matt Flynn.
Determined to rebuild his motion, Pryor worked extensively with throwing specialist Tom House at USC this off-season, developing new timing and "unlocking" his upper body to improve his accuracy. House works with an array of NFL players — along with college and Major League Baseball players — among them quarterbacks Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
"I truly believe that after spending a month and a half with Tom, I can now sit back in the pocket and throw the ball," he said.
Pryor played well Friday in a 19-17 exhibition victory against Dallas, completing six of 10 passes for 88 yards, and running three times for 31 yards.
The pass that got away was a cross-body fling into the end zone six yards away that was picked off by Dallas' J.J. Wilcox. There appeared to be room for Pryor to score with his feet, but instead he tried to force a pass.
"I looked at the pictures and I could have easily ran it in, but I got greedy," Pryor said.
He disagreed with the notion that he wanted to throw for the score rather than run for it because he's determined to prove he can win with his arm, that he's not simply a one-dimensional read-option threat.
But Raiders Coach Dennis Allen said the next step in Pryor's maturation process is learning that sometimes he needs to listen to his instincts and make the play that unfolds before him, rather than reaching for that higher degree of difficulty.
"That's been one thing we've consistently talked to Terrelle about is in those situations, don't be afraid to use your legs," Allen said. "Don't be afraid to use your skill set. ... Not every play has to be a great play, not every play has to be a spectacular play."
That Pryor is even a consideration now is a significant achievement for him and means he has made big strides. He was very raw coming out of Ohio State, and many people expected him to switch positions in the NFL, becoming a receiver or tight end.
Pryor was selected by the Raiders in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft. He chose to skip his senior season at Ohio State in the aftermath of a tattoo-for-memorabilia scandal that cost coach Jim Tressel his job.
Pryor's NFL career began under a dark cloud, with the league taking the unusual step of carrying over the NCAA's penalty and imposing a corresponding five-game suspension of its own. He ran a 40 in under 4.4 seconds for scouts, freakish for a player who stands 6 feet 4 and weighs 233 pounds.
He made his starting debut at the end of last season, taking over for the injured Carson Palmer in a finale against San Diego. Pryor showed flashes of promise in that game, throwing two touchdown passes despite completing only 46% of his passes — 13 of 28 — and running for another score. He proved he could get in and out of the huddle quickly, often a problem for young quarterbacks, and showed elements of leadership, at one point breaking up a fight on the field.
But it was the work he did this off-season, he believes, that will make him a more accurate, more dangerous player this season.
"We're going to continue to give him opportunities to showcase his skills," Allen said. "But right now, he's not there yet."
Pryor, for one, is confident he will be.
"I'm very honest with myself," he said. "Last year, I look back and I just know I wasn't ready. I didn't have the mind-set. I knew I wasn't ready in terms of mechanics. I was so far off.
"This year, I'm very confident. I'm confident in the huddle, getting the calls to the guys, saying the protections. And I truly believe that any time a route or concept is called, I can put the ball where I want."