The day is coming.
It probably won’t be tomorrow, when NFL teams have until 4 p.m. to get their rosters down on 75 players. But it will inevitably happen by 6 p.m. on Sept. 5, when teams must have their rosters down to 53 players.
It is time for the Cleveland Browns to end the charade that Terrelle Pryor can be an NFL wide receiver.
After failing yet again as a quarterback in a quarterback-starved league, the 26-year-old Pryor decided he was now going to remake himself as a wide receiver at the game’s highest level, despite never having played the position.
“Well I’ve been playing (receiver) since I was probably 16, just like the majority of the guys that are in the NFL, so he’s got to make up years of learning and work in a couple of weeks,” wide receiver Brian Hartline, a former teammate of Pryor’s at Ohio State, told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “So (it’s a) pretty tall task.”
The Browns created both an on-field and an off-field problem when they signed Pryor.
On the field, Pryor needed as many reps in practice and games as possible for this to have any chance of happening. We hate to burst anyone’s bubble (actually, we don’t), but working out for six weeks prior to training camp does not make one an NFL wide receiver.
At the same time, however, the Browns also needed to give their actual wide receivers time to find a rhythm with new quarterback Josh McCown and learn new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo‘s offensive system.
That dilemma worked itself out, however, as Pryor’s ongoing hamstring issues have limited him to just a handful of practices – none in pads – and kept him sidelined for the first three preseason friendlies. How can the team hold a roster spot for a player that can’t get on the field, let alone practice?
There is also a numbers game that was never going to work in Pryor’s favor.
Unless they suffer a significant injury, the following five wide receivers are going to make the final roster:
- Dwayne Bowe, who despite battling his own hamstring problems has $9 million in guaranteed money.
- Brian Hartline, who has shown a reliable set of hands and brings a veteran presence to the receiving group.
- Andrew Hawkins, one of the best slot receivers in the game.
- Travis Benjamin, who continues to show that he has recovered from his knee injury in 2013.
- Taylor Gabriel, who the coaching staff has talked up since Organized Team Activities.
Head coach Mike Pettine also made it clear over the weekend that the team is keeping wide receiver Marlon Moore on the roster, not only because of what he brings as a key member of the special teams, but also as a receiving option.
“Marlon I know will be more involved with the offense this year,” Pettine told The Beacon Journal. “He has proven that he can take some reps off of guys, whether it is the fourth or fifth wideout up in however many we have up in a game.”
Cleveland carried just five wide receivers (plus Moore) last season, and Pettine hasn’t given any indication they will carry more than that this year. So, if you think Pryor deserves a roster spot, whose place does he take?Jul 30, 2015; Berea, OH, USA; Cleveland Browns wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (87) runs the ball during training camp at the Cleveland Browns practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
The Browns also are dealing with a public relations issue of their own making when it comes to Pryor, who represents the unfulfilled fantasy of every Browns fan blinded by their Scarlet-and-Gray glasses.
All we’ve heard since the Browns signed Pryor is about all the things he can do on the field, but outside of a couple of practices he has actually not done any of them. Pryor may certainly look the part of an NFL wide receiver, but the Browns are building a football team, not casting the sequel to Draft Day.
We may be a bit old-fashioned, but we like our football team to be filled by players who, you know, actually play.
Things have gotten so out of hand that we’ve actually been told that Pryor doesn’t need to play or practice to make the roster because the Browns can just watch YouTube videos of his workouts to see what he is capable of doing.
We really wish we were making that last part up.
Pettine is already trying to cushion the backlash by saying that the team won’t make a final determination based off Thursday’s final preseason game – if Pryor can even play that night against Chicago.
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“I don’t want to say make or break,” Pettine told Northeast Ohio Media Group. “I’m not going to deal with an absolute, saying he has to play, but we want to see him out there. I can’t say today that he definitely will, but he should be. He was close to being able to go, and give it another week, we’re hopeful he’ll be out there and we’ll be able to see him.”
It is a smart comment from Pettine. If Pryor is somehow able to play against the Bears and has even a mildly respectable game against defenders who will be unemployed come the weekend, people will be clamoring for Pryor to make the team.
But by pointing out that one game will not be the determining factor, Pettine is slow walking Pryor supporters to the fact that Pryor’s release is more likely than not.
For those still in denial, let’s turn this scenario around for a moment.
We’re constantly told what a toxic mess the Browns are as an organization. They fire coaches at the drop of a hat, they can’t find a quarterback, no one stays in their own lane, it’s a wonder that the team can even find the field on Sunday afternoons.
Oh, and general manager Ray Farmer is incompetent, someone who’s draft picks are “busts,” who intentionally won’t sign “name players” and refuses to understand the need for a “big-time” wide receiver.
Every single NFL team has had numerous opportunities to sign Pryor and each and every one of them has passed.
So what are the odds that the Browns are the one team in all of the NFL that discovered the hidden gem that is Terrelle Pryor, wide receiver?
It is a nice fairy tale to believe that with almost no preparation whatsoever Pryor could transform himself into an NFL wide receiver.
Unfortunately, not all fairy tales have a happy ending.