BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Terrelle Pryor did it all last week for the Browns, lining up at wide receiver, quarterback and even safety.
He was also a throwback.
With an all-around performance not seen on an NFL field since 1959, Pryor displayed his unique athletic gifts and gave Cleveland fans some hope that a season already sabotaged by key injuries can maybe be salvaged.
Pryor was remarkable while running, catching and throwing passes during the Browns’ 30-24 overtime loss to Miami.
The former Ohio State and Oakland QB, who boldly switched positions a year ago to keep his career afloat, finished with 144 yards receiving, 35 passing and 21 rushing with one touchdown.
No player had posted those kinds of statistics since Hall of Famer Frank Gifford did so for the New York Giants 57 years ago.
He’s the first player since Billy Kilmer in 1964 to throw three passes, catch three and have three carries.
“I always say, before I go into a game, ‘I’m the best athlete on the field,'” Pryor said as the Browns began preparing for this week’s game in Washington. “And I firmly believe that.”
The Dolphins don’t doubt it. Pryor was a one-man wrecking crew.
“He’s 6-6, 240 (pounds) and runs a 4.4,” said Miami cornerback Byron Maxwell. “Anytime he gets the ball in his hands with just a little bit of space or separation, he can take it the distance. He’s fast. He’s big. He’s a problem. He can be a problem in this league, if he stays consistent. He was their offense. He made a lot of plays.”
Pryor bailed out the Browns, who were forced to start rookie quarterback Cody Kessler after Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown got hurt in the season’s first two weeks.
Browns coach Hue Jackson designed several packages to utilize Pryor’s unique skillset. He took 14 snaps behind center, caught eight passes as Kessler’s primary target and had the Dolphins’ heads swimming every time he left the huddle.
No. 11 seemed to be everywhere.
With Pryor in the wildcat formation, Jackson pulled Kessler off the field rather than leave the young QB in as a decoy that the Dolphins would have probably ignored anyway.
Pryor’s ability to run and pass kept Miami’s defense off-balance and allowed the Browns to break off several big plays.
But his physical performance, Pryor impressed teammates by handling the responsibilities of multiple positions.
“It’s amazing,” Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas said. “Learning quarterback, running back, receiver, it takes a lot of mental gymnastics to be able to go out there and do it the right way.
“The only thing I think was kind of holding Terrelle back in the past is that he was a quarterback trying to learn receiver, and that’s not as easy as many people would think.
“The commitment that he’s made to that position and being able to help us at that position, really opened up the possibilities of him playing quarterback and running back.
“People have to consider him a serious, legitimate threat at receiver and you have to try and stop him there, so it kind of opens up the rest of his game.”
Jackson is the one who recognized Pryor’s potential as a wide receiver.
They were together in Oakland, where Pryor started 10 games for the Raiders, but didn’t do enough to convince them he was their future QB.
He was traded to Seattle in 2014 and wound up with Cincinnati, where Jackson was in his first season as offensive coordinator. Pryor’s football future was in doubt, but at Jackson’s urging he switched to wide receiver.
He was in camp with the Browns last year, got waived and then signed by Cleveland for the last four games.
Now, with rookie Corey Coleman out with a broken hand and Josh Gordon suspended, he’s the team’s No. 1 wide receiver.
Jackson believes Pryor’s just starting.
“He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he is,” Jackson said. “His best football is still ahead of him — by far.”
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Pryor’s versatility has given his team much to consider.
When the Browns line up Sunday, the defense’s first assignment will be the same on every play.
“Where is No. 11?” he said. “We just have to find out where he is. He could be a receiver. They could throw him double passes, and he can be in the backfield and be a quarterback, a lot of things he can do. There is not a lot he can’t.”
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