Last year, Terrelle Pryor’s NFL career looked to be hanging on by a thread. This season, he became the Cleveland Browns’ No. 1 receiver. It seemed like a feel-good story, yet Pryor drew a lot of ire from opponents throughout the year. His teammate, fellow receiver Andrew Hawkins, thinks it’s because Pryor converted to receiver from quarterback.
"So the quarterbacks get all the love. Even though he's a receiver, he's still a quarterback because we're talking about him at this desk,” Hawkins said on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football. “And players don't like that. It's hard to get recognition, it's hard to be talked about in the morning shows. And Terrelle gets that.
“I think it rubs DBs the wrong way and opponents in general."
Pryor was on the receiving end of a lot of criticism from opposing defenders this season, and Pryor’s responses generally raised even more questions about why everyone seems to dislike him.
New York Giants cornerback Janoris Jenkins called Pryor a “Sh*t Eater” via Twitter. Pryor responded with kind words for Jenkins.
You are a great corner. Solid defender! You played a solid game. God Bless !! Good luck rest of year https://t.co/Lomh8ke4YW— Terrelle Pryor SR (@TerrellePryor) November 27, 2016
After Cleveland’s Week 14 loss to the Bengals, Cincinnati cornerback Adam Jones repeatedly referred to Pryor as “garbage.” Instead of getting angry, Pryor agreed.
"He was right,” Pryor said, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot. “I was garbage that day. One catch for 3 yards.”
The vitriol toward Pryor doesn’t necessarily end with opponents. Former receiver Brian Hartline, who also played for the Browns in 2015, had strong words about Pryor as a quarterback-turned-receiver.
“Listen, you had one year. You’re a flash in the pan,” Hartline said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal. “You’re trying to tell me with a guy that had suspect personality characteristics, I’m going to go ahead and hand you a bunch of money but you’re going to work harder? I think I’m going to bet against that if I’m a betting man.”
What Hartline failed to mention was that the Browns cut Hartline last spring and retained the converted quarterback. That may sway Hartline’s opinion a bit.
After being drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the third round of the 2011 supplemental draft, Pryor spent four unsuccessful years trying to make it as a quarterback in the NFL with the Raiders, Seahawks, Chiefs, and Bengals. The Browns claimed Pryor off waivers during the 2015 offseason, and his transition to wide receiver began.
Hawkins said that when Pryor first began his transition to the wide receiver position, he was terrible.
“You know how hard it is. This is not going to happen,” Hawkins said. “He's 26, 27 years old, he's not going to do it.”
But Pryor’s work ethic and focus put him in a position to become the Browns’ top receiver this season, with 77 catches for 1,007 yards, and four touchdowns.
“He's the first one in the facility, he's the last one to leave ... To see where he is now is amazing,” Hawkins said.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson shares Hawkins’ perspective on Pryor.
“You guys know I have a tremendous amount of confidence in Terrelle,” Jackson said. “I think he is only going to get better as he moves forward. Terrelle is like most guys. He wants it all. He wants to be the best at what he does.”
Pryor signed a one-year, $1.67 million contract with the Browns for the 2016 season. The Browns initiated extension talks with Pryor in October, but put discussions on hold until after the season. Pryor may test the free agency market, but he said he wants to stay in Cleveland.
“I’d love to play for Coach Hue,” Pryor said, via Ulrich. “I loved playing with him this year, no matter what. Despite the 1-15 record, I’m not worried about that. … I love this place. I love Cleveland. I love the fans here. It’s amazing.”
Pryor’s play this season has likely earned him a big payday going forward, from the Browns or another team, and it doesn’t matter whether opponents like him or not.