FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Terrelle Pryor tried pushing himself through practice and games last season until his ailing right ankle had enough.
The wide receiver’s one season in Washington was a major disappointment because of the early season injury that eventually sidelined him. Now with the New York Jets, the former Ohio State quarterback-turned-wide receiver is looking for a big-time comeback — as long as he can get — and stay — healthy.
“It’s big because I love it here,” Pryor said Thursday after New York’s three-day minicamp ended. “I’d like to finish my career here. So, I want to come out and have a great year and I believe I will. If I stay healthy, God-willing and I know I will, I’m not even going to talk about that anymore.
“I’ll come out here and hit the field running — fast, hard — and be a leader on the field to the offense and do whatever I can to be the best teammate I can be.”
Pryor, who turns 29 next Wednesday, was unable to practice during organized team activities or minicamp because he had arthroscopic surgery on his right ankle with a different injury from the one that shut him down with the Redskins. He was in a walking boot until Wednesday, but is uncertain to be ready for the start of training camp in late-July.
“We’ll see how his progress goes over the summer and we’ll deal with it when we come back,” coach Todd Bowles said.
Pryor remains optimistic about his chances of being able to pass his physical and immediately practice with his teammates.
“I believe so,” said Pryor, adding that the decision will be that of Bowles and head athletic trainer John Mellody. “But, for now, in my mind, I’ll be there the first day.”
Pryor has had a long, winding and sometimes wild football journey to get to New York, where he signed a one-year deal worth $4.5 million after also taking a free-agent visit to Seattle over the winter and garnering some interest from Cleveland.
He was intrigued at the thought of playing in offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates’ system, and knew about Karl Dorrell’s reputation for being one of the league’s most-respected wide receivers coaches.
“I think he can take me to the next level of where I’m trying to go,” Pryor said.
Expectations have always been high for Pryor, who was a top high school recruit from southwestern Pennsylvania before becoming the starting quarterback for Ohio State from 2008-10 and one of college football’s most exciting players.
He withdrew from Ohio State in June 2011 after a memorabilia-for-cash-and-tattoos scandal, and was selected by Oakland in the NFL supplemental draft two months later. Pryor played in just four games during his first two seasons with the Raiders, and then started nine games at quarterback in 2013 before being benched following a sprained knee ligament earlier in the season.
Stints with Seattle, Kansas City and Cincinnati all flamed out. Then, Pryor announced that he would switch to wide receiver on a full-time basis. That led to an opportunity in Cleveland, where he played in three games in 2015. The next season, Pryor blossomed while leading the Browns in receptions, yards receiving, TD catches, yards per game and yards per catch.
He signed a one-year, $6 million contract with Washington last season and was expected to be a major part of the Redskins’ offense. But it didn’t take long for his season to take a painful turn.
“I wouldn’t say ‘lost’ because I learned a lot,” Pryor said. “For me, being injured Week 1 and tearing my deltoid (ligament), that was horrible, horrible for me. There were times I was going out there all the way to Weeks 6 and 7 where I was playing and there were times where I was just falling on my face as I was running routes because it was so hard. Eventually, after Week 7, I said, I can’t do it anymore.”
Pryor opted for season-ending surgery after nine games and just 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown.
“I had four drops last year — a lot of drops — and just really couldn’t focus on my game because I was more worried about my foot,” he said. “It kind of took control of my mind. Whereas, right now, I’m healthy and ready to get back to form and have a dominant year.”
The Redskins decided to move on from Pryor in the offseason, allowing him to become a free agent. But just a few months after signing with the Jets and getting excited about rejuvenating his career with a new team, Pryor injured his right ankle again.
“I mean, I was scared, having to come out, but it was nowhere near as bad as I thought,” he said.
Pryor likes the idea of being able to join a receiving corps that includes Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse and Quincy Enunwa with the Jets.
“We’re versatile,” Pryor said. “We’ve got different guys who can do different things. We’ve got Robby who can run and take the top off. We’ve got Kearse, who controls and handles the whole middle. And Quincy, he’s just a beast and he catches the ball.
“And, me, it is what it is. I’m going to do what I do.”
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