- Paul Gutierrez, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- For one of the few times in his short tenure as Oakland Raiders coach, Dennis Allen seemed outwardly frazzled.
“I have no idea,” Allen said.
Indeed, the concussion suffered by Pryor when the quarterback ran into a blitzing Wesley Woodyard and endured a helmet-to-chin hit in the fourth quarter of the Raiders’ eventual 37-21 loss to the Denver Broncos on Monday has thrown uncertainty into Oakland’s most capricious position.
Pryor, who is as raw as he is electric as a playmaker, has made strides in three starts this season, and even if he is not the Raiders’ Mr. Right, he is indeed their Mr. Right Now.
Against the Broncos, he had a career-best quarterback rating of 112.4, completing 19 of 28 passes for 281 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown catch and run by Denarius Moore.
“The big stage doesn’t bother him at all,” Moore said of Pryor. “It’s like he has been a starting quarterback for five years now.”
Pryor did not commit a turnover for the second consecutive game and also rushed for 36 yards on four carries. But he lost two yards on that vicious hit by Woodyard, which laid him out face-down in the grass for a few seconds. Pryor stayed in the game for two more plays before leaving for the locker room.
There is no question Pryor is growing into the role, even with such a small sample size.
But now? Pryor has to pass the NFL-mandated concussion protocol to be cleared just to practice, let alone play in an NFL game. Again, in a short week.
Allen would not begin to hypothesize about his starting signal-caller's availability. And Pryor, because he was diagnosed with a concussion, was not required to speak to reporters after the game, though he was at his locker and did not appear outwardly dazed.
How big of a blow would it be for not only Pryor but also the Raiders if he is out next week?
“It would be a big blow,” Raiders safety Charles Woodson said. “It’s a guy that’s getting his chance, and with each week he’s getting a little bit more comfortable.
“He did some good things tonight, so it would be a tough blow [to lose him], especially for him and his development as a player if he’s not able to shake it off and bounce back and come back next week.”
The irony, then, was one locker away from Pryor.
Matt Flynn has not spoken to the media since, for the second consecutive year, he lost a training-camp battle to a younger prospect after signing a big-money deal.
But there was Flynn, taking over for Pryor after his departure, with the Raiders at the Denver 20-yard line with 2:19 to play.
“That’s part of the job,” Flynn said. “You’ve got to be ready at any time.
“I’m always going to be ready. I’m always going to prepare, and that’s one thing this team will never have to worry about, is me being ready.”
Flynn wasted no time. He attempted a pass into the end zone to Moore on his first play, though the ball fell incomplete.
Then Flynn hit Marcel Reece in the flat and the fullback rumbled to the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Darren McFadden won a race to the right pylon and Flynn had a scoring drive -- albeit a 20-yard scoring drive -- in his Raiders debut.
Yeah, it’s part of the backup’s job description, but that does not mean it’s easy, right?
Flynn smiled softly.
“You’re into every play, you know every play that’s run, so you’re still into it, and you’re looking at the cards on the sidelines so you have a good feeling for what they’re trying to do defensively,” he said. “And as much as you can, you try to keep your body as warm as you can. You can get a little cold out there physically, but once you’re in there, the adrenaline starts pumping and it kind of takes care of itself.”
Flynn, who last week started taking reps as a holder for place-kicker Sebastian Janikowski, is making $6.5 million this season. He was general manager Reggie McKenzie’s guy, the presumptive starter after being acquired from Seattle following a year watching then-rookie Russell Wilson dazzle for the Seahawks.
It has been tough, then, for the competitor in Flynn to watch history repeat itself, with Pryor surprising even McKenzie to win the gig after Flynn’s sore elbow betrayed him in camp, right?
“It’s definitely tough,” Flynn allowed. “I don’t know if this is the time or place to talk about that let’s just keep it about Denver, and we’ve got to get better than that.”
And therein lies the rub.
Pryor’s concussion brings the whole sordid tale to the surface. Just in time for Washington to come to town with its just-as-damaged-goods young quarterback in Robert Griffin III.
Just don’t ask Allen about that matchup yet.
5dEric D. Williams
5dEric D. Williams
5dEric D. Williams