By Gregg Bell The News Tribune
RENTON — Terrelle Pryor guarantees he will be one thing in the Seattle Seahawks’ final exhibition game that he wasn’t for the last one.
Asked what he wants to get out of Thursday’s 7 p.m. game that is more his bid for a roster spot on the Super Bowl champions than an Oakland homecoming, the former Raiders starting quarterback into last season said, “Just play better. You know, last week I didn’t even know I was going in. You’ve always got to be ready. Just make plays, and not try to do too much.”
Seattle’s third quarterback on a team for which head coach Pete Carroll has usually kept two shined in the exhibition opener at Denver, completing nine of 16 passes despite next-to-no pass protection and leading the Seahawks with 28 yards rushing. Then against San Diego Pryor sprinted 44 yards past every Charger for an eye-opening touchdown.
Last week against Chicago he entered on the penultimate drive of a 34-6 game and promptly threw an awful-looking interception. Then he took two kneel downs to end the game.
“I think I did well the first two games,” Pryor said. Then the last game, like I said, I was sitting on the bench and waiting. … That’s my fault, you know. I own up to that.
“I went out there and threw a pick, even though I didn’t know I was going in. I thought I was sitting out the whole game. You’ve got to own up to those things.
“I’ll play better this week. Definitely.”
He has to, to make this Seahawks team. Final roster cuts are due by 1 p.m. Saturday, when the league mandates teams get down to 53 players for the start of the regular season.
Carroll has kept just two quarterbacks on the roster to start the regular season three times in his previous four seasons leading the Seahawks, with the exception of 2011. He has planned for more consistent playing time for veteran Tarvaris Jackson, the incumbent primary backup to Russell Wilson, and for Pryor in the last two exhibitions. But Russell Wilson and the starting offense jumped to a 24-0 lead by halftime against San Diego, and it was 31-0 by half against Chicago last week. That would have made a normal workload of passing for Jackson and Pryor in the second halves unseemly, as if Carroll was running up the score in the preseason.
“We haven’t had really good opportunities for the quarterbacks in the last couple weeks the way we like. The games have gone so it didn’t happen that way,” Carroll said.
“We’re going to try to make it so they get to play and show their stuff (in Oakland). I’d love for Terrelle to get some good play time in this game particularly because he didn’t get much of anything last week.”
Through the three preseason games Pryor has led eight drives with a combined 49 plays in which Seattle has gained 285 yards and scored 16 points. That’s 5.8 yards per play. The Seahawks have converted four of 11 third downs into first downs with Pryor in the game.
Asked what he needs to improve on this offense, Pryor said, “Keep getting better on protections. Last week, the protection caused that pick. If I changed that, that pick would have never happened last week.
“Just things like that, little details like that. And just continue to learn the offense.”
He’s not looking ahead to what’s at stake for him Thursday night.
“I don’t look at it like that. I look at it as, it is what it is, every single day,” he said. “I try to cherish the moment.”
Jackson has played half the time Pryor has this month, four drives, because Carroll and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell know what they have in the nine-year veteran who started for Seattle in 2011 and backed up Wilson last season. The Seahawks have 84 yards — 3.1 yards per play — and two field goals with Jackson leading them this month. Seattle has converted three of seven third downs with him.
Carroll and Bevell covet Jackson’s experience and popularity within the team — they don’t forget he played games with a torn pectoral muscle a few seasons ago because the Seahawks needed him to. That display of loyalty and guts goes a long way, certainly long enough to be Wilson’s primary backup again this season, no matter how well he does against the Raiders.
The issue is whether Pryor’s undeniable athleticism has piqued Carroll’s and Bevell’s interest enough keep three quarterbacks on the active roster to begin the regular season.
There are factors here beyond the fact Pryor would never be active on game days this season as the No. 3 quarterback. Jackson has a one-year, guaranteed contract for $1.25 million. After that he will be 32 years old with 10 seasons and, for now, 34 starts in the league. Pryor has one year remaining on the four-year deal he signed with Oakland in 2011. It is scheduled to pay him $705,000 this season. He will be 26 after this season, with 10 starts over parts of three seasons with the Raiders before now. So either way, the Seahawks would have to offer a new contract to either one or both of them, or go find a new backup quarterback after this season.
Pryor has a ways to go on accuracy in his passing, but he is also yearning for continuity in training and coaching. He believes he’s found that in Carroll’s and Bevell’s system.
“I had some great coaches (in Oakland),” Pryor said this week, “but I only had each coach for a year, so it was hard to get a taste and good look at and good feel for an offense.”
If the Seahawks think they can use Pryor in any way during the season — or even as a threat to an opponent that they could use him in any way on a given week — they may keep him.
“Sometimes you just can’t afford not to have three guys because they’re so good and you just got to have them,” Carroll said. “We were very fortunate that we made it through with the two-quarterback thing last year. Russell’s young and physical that can handle the pounding. He does a great job. He’s not a guy that puts himself in harm’s way very often.
“The two-quarterbacks thing really helps you because you get another football player on your team — but sometimes you can’t afford to do it because your guys are too good.”
That’s the crux of it: Are Carroll and general manager John Schneider willing to keep Pryor at the expense of an extra backup offensive or defensive lineman?
Asked what he wanted to see from Pryor Thursday, Carroll said: “I hope the cool things we’ve seen on the practice field will show up on the game field. He had a nice first game then the opportunities just didn’t work out quite as well for chances to do things so hopefully this game it will be different.”