Raiders' Pryor to get first start at quarterback
ALAMEDA, Calif. — The Oakland Raiders are ready to get a long look at Terrelle Pryor to see if he can be their quarterback of the future.
Pryor got the nod to start Sunday's season finale in San Diego in place of the injured Carson Palmer. After being deemed not ready to be the backup when Palmer got hurt last week in Carolina, Pryor now gets the chance to make his first career start.
"We know what his strengths are, we know what his weaknesses are," coach Dennis Allen said Friday. "But really, to give him an opportunity to go out in a game, against a division opponent, at their place, and give him a chance to play, it gives us a view into the future."
Allen said he told Pryor and Matt Leinart early in the week that he was leaning to Pryor but wanted to see how practice developed. He said he thought Pryor responded well and now wants to see what his athleticism can bring to a team that has failed to score a touchdown the past two weeks.
Pryor said he's confident he is ready to start his first game since the Sugar Bowl for Ohio State against Arkansas on Jan. 4, 2011, but admitted to having some anxiety.
"I'm nervous. Until the first play I'm going to be nervous," he said. "I'm human like you guys. I'm human like everybody. I just happen to play one of the best sports in the world. I'll be nervous until the first snap."
Pryor got a few chances to shine in the preseason but was then inactive the first 11 games of this year. He played briefly the past two weeks in specialty packages. He completed one of two passes for 5 yards, ran the ball once for 2 yards and caught a 22-yard pass.
Feisty New York Jets coach Rex Ryan opened his news conference Friday by denouncing a published report that said he would welcome being fired if owner Woody Johnson doesn't make significant personnel and coaching changes to the offense.
"There was a report that was untrue," Ryan said. "The fact is, and it's simple: This is the only team that I want to coach. Period. This is my team. These are my players. I don't want to coach somebody else's players. This is the team I want to coach."
With the Jets (6-9) out of the playoffs for the second straight season, Ryan's job status has become somewhat tenuous in his fourth year. But Ryan said he was "mad as a hornet" when he read the Daily News story, and immediately called Johnson to deny it.
The paper, which quoted unidentified sources, said it stood by the report. The back page carried a picture of Ryan and a headline that said: "Rex Wants Out ... Unless Woody spends on Jets' woeful offense."
"It's a very solid report," said Teri Thompson, managing editor for sports at the Daily News.
Ryan said he was contacted by the reporter Thursday night, but his response wasn't included. Thompson said it was an off-the-record comment and as such was not published.
Andy Reid reiterated Friday that he wants to coach next season. Reid is expected to coach his final game with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday against the New York Giants.
"I want to coach," Reid said. "That's what I want to do."
Reid said he has not spoken to owner Jeffrey Lurie this week about the future. Reid still plans to self-scout during the offseason, as he has always done, and players say they still support him.
More than 400 people affected by the Newtown shootings, including 200 or so students from Sandy Hook Elementary School, will be guests of the New York Giants at Sunday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
"We were so taken aback and so shocked and felt so badly for the families, not only the families of the children but the principal and the school psychologist and the real heroes who knew exactly what was coming and still charged and attacked and knew what the outcome would be," coach Tom Coughlin said.
"And it's Giant Country. And we know that. To have that group from the Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Newtown community come down for this game with Philadelphia, it means a great deal to us and we would certainly like to honor them. The best we can do is take each individual and play to the best of his ability and make a statement as a team as well. We're not alone in our passion and empathy for the school and their lost loved ones. I'm sure the entire country feels that way. But it's special for us to have them here this weekend."
Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew had surgery on his left foot Friday and will be out at least until May. The operation came 10 weeks after Jones-Drew hurt his foot at Oakland on Oct. 21 and created plenty of questions about why the team didn't opt for surgery months ago.
The Jaguars (2-13) were 1-5 after that loss, in the middle of a seven-game losing streak, and knew Jones-Drew would be out an extended period. Surgery was an option back then. Instead, the team held out hope Jones-Drew could return.
"We had hoped it would — as others have — heal without surgery, and it didn't," coach Mike Mularkey said Friday.
Mularkey said the two-month delay means little because players can't start offseason work with coaches until April 15.
Once practice ended on Friday, quarterback Thad Lewis was approached by Browns coach Pat Shurmur, who had great news for the third-stringer.
"He said, 'You're the man,'" Lewis said.
And just like that, Lewis became Cleveland's starter Sunday in the season finale at Pittsburgh, where he will take his first regular-season NFL snaps against the Steelers and their No. 1-ranked defense.
"It's exciting," Lewis said. "It's a blessing for a childhood dream come true."
Shoulder injuries to starter Brandon Weeden and No. 2 QB Colt McCoy will give Lewis a chance to show what he can do after almost three seasons spent on practice squads, running the scout team and finishing off exhibition games with other backups. He's been waiting for his opportunity, and he'll get it against James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Co. — amid a sea of Terrible Towels.
The New Orleans Saints and suspended coach Sean Payton will indeed be together again next season as the bounty scandal fades into history and the bid to win a second Super Bowl resumes.
Payton has agreed in principle to a multiyear contract extension, according to two people familiar with the deal.
The people told The Associated Press about the deal Friday night on condition of anonymity because it hasn't been signed and final details regarding the length of the contract and financial compensation are still being worked out.
Payton was due to begin his seventh season as the Saints' head coach in 2012 before being suspended for the whole season by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation.
"Very happy it is official," quarterback Drew Brees said in an email to the AP. "Never had any doubts."
Payton signed an extension in 2011 that would have kept him in New Orleans through 2015, but Goodell objected to certain language in that deal, leaving Payton's future uncertain until the deal was reached.