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NFL

Browns' Pryor embraces challenge of playing wide receiver

Chris Adamski
| Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, 11:09 p.m.
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor (Jeannette) can't hold on to a fourth-quarter pass as he is defended by Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Cleveland.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Browns receiver Terrelle Pryor (Jeannette) can't hold on to a fourth-quarter pass as he is defended by Steelers cornerback Ross Cockrell on Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016, in Cleveland.

CLEVELAND — Just as he had at Jeannette, Ohio State, and at times with the Oakland Raiders, Terrelle Pryor made a big play Sunday.

This one was different, though. For the first time, Pryor's big play came with him playing wide receiver.

But don't tell Pryor his first reception as an NFL wide receiver carried extra significance.

“Not at all, because I expect to catch the ball,” the former star high school, college and Raiders quarterback said. “And I expect that, when the ball's in my area, to go get it. I'm glad I had the opportunity to go get it.”

Pryor's 42-yard catch came on a pass from Browns quarterback Austin Davis. Pryor leaped and fought for the ball with Steelers cornerback Antwon Blake. The catch bailed out the Browns on a third-and-19 and set up a score that moved them within five points of the Steelers.

The catch teased Pryor's potential at his new position. The play also accounted for the Browns' biggest gain of the day, their longest in four weeks and their ninth-longest passing play of the season.

“That big play that he made is indicative of what he is capable of,” coach Mike Pettine said after the game.

Pettine was fired two hours later, but the enthusiasm in which he spoke about Pryor — whom the Browns signed in June — was palpable.

“There is a lot of work that needs to put in there to get him polished, but it's obvious that he possesses the skill set and he needs to play,” Pettine said. “A good offseason, OTAs and minicamps and a full training camp — I wouldn't bet against him making it as a wideout.”

Pryor, 26, spent about two decades as a quarterback before making the decision in June to switch to wide receiver after being released by an NFL team for the third time in 10 months.

Pryor didn't make the Browns out of training camp but was re-signed last month. He played in the team's final three games, starting two. He had been thrown to only twice until Sunday, when Davis targeted him six times.

“Terrelle's got a big body, and he can box out corners and make plays in traffic,” Davis said. “So any time you get (man-to-man), you just put the ball up for him, and obviously he made a big play.

“He's got a chance to be a really good receiver. … It takes time. It takes reps. I thought he got better as the year went on.”

Now fully committed to and excited about being a wide receiver, Pryor has an offseason to embrace training solely for that position.

“I'll take some time off to be with my son, but for the most part, I'll be with the guys working out in Pittsburgh, L.A. and Miami, just training,” Pryor said.

Pryor has the size (6-foot-4, 223 pounds), speed (clocked at 4.38 seconds in the 40) and playmaking instinct to be an effective wide receiver. He was the first Pennsylvania prep player to have 4,000-plus rushing and passing yards in his career and accounted for 76 touchdowns in three years of college. He holds the NFL record for longest touchdown rush by a quarterback with a 93-yarder against the Steelers on Oct. 27, 2013.

“I'm going to keep coming on,” Pryor told the Tribune-Review. “I keep getting better and better everyday. I take practice very serious. I run hard every play.

“I'm going to be a problem for DBs next year, 100 percent. I'm going to be a problem for all the defenses. So I'm looking forward to that.”

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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