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Ailing Al Davis Still Calling Shots

OAKLAND - You asked if Al Davis still was calling the shots for the Oakland Raiders? Now you know. Terrelle Pryor is your answer, even if he never becomes the answer to the team's future quarterback questions.

Who cares if Terrelle's a disappointment - the word 'bust' is reserved for JaMarcus Russell - when Pryor gets you to the top of the USA Today sports section as he did Tuesday.

You can see Davis rubbing his hands together and chortling, "I've still got the touch.''

Whether Pryor, the guy who used to play for Ohio State where Jim Tressel used to coach, has the touch for the pros is yet to be determined.

As a college passer, he was an excellent runner, big and fast, as opposed to JaMarcus, who was very big, not as fast as he was supposed to be and had an aversion to learning assignments.

Davis, 82, and with a few physical problems, has remained out of sight at the Raiders training camp in Napa. The selection of Pryor in the third round of the supplemental draft disproves any nonsensical ideas Al is not in control.

Who cares if Terrelle's throwing motion is awkward, or if he traded memorabilia for tattoos? He's Raider material through and through, a player who had most teams worried less about his performance than the public reaction to his selection.

Besides, he cost Oakland only a third-round pick in next April's draft. It's blowing those first-round selections, as the Raiders did with Russell, the top pick in 2007, which is painful. Would there be anyone around next spring in the 2012 draft with Terrelle's possibilities? Or liabilities?

The Raiders have been relatively silent this summer, even with a gregarious new coach, Hue Jackson, a Davis choice.

Their fans haven't said much either, although as you may have noticed they did get take part inadvertently or intentionally in a few punchouts and two shootings involving 49er partisans Saturday night at Candlestick Park, actions which have brought about the cancellation of the San Francisco-Oakland preseason series for the future.

Behind the slick maneuvering of Davis in the 1970s, a kinder, gentler time in the stands if not on the field, the Raiders became champions by drafting and trading for players who were over-the-hill, under the radar or generally unacceptable for a wide variety of reasons.

Pryor then would have been the sort on whom Al would take a chance. Pryor now remains the sort on whom Al did take a chance.

Terrelle Pryor is an athlete, and that's why he so intrigues Al Davis. The Raiders for most of the time in Al's 48-year association as coach, lord and master, have believed in matchups as opposed to schemes.

My guy will beat your guy. Down the field. At the line. Everywhere.

Sometimes the Raiders end up with receivers who can outrun everybody but unfortunately can't catch anything, such as Darrius Heyward-Bey. Sometimes they end up with linebackers, such as Rolando McClain, who can catch everyone.

What they'll end up with in Terrelle Pryor is uncertain, even if the analysts have decided he will be a flop. Todd McShay on ESPN said Pryor will have to switch to receiver if he wants to make it in the NFL. But on Tuesday Pryor told ProFootballTalk.com he is a quarterback.

"I can make plays,'' said Pryor, who did make them at Ohio State. When you're 6-foot-5, 232 pounds and record a time in the 40-yard dash, 4.36 seconds which would have been the fourth fastest at this year's combine, making plays is what you're supposed to do.

"I believe I can move the ball down the field with my arm and especially with my legs, if I have to,'' he said. As a junior last fall, Pryor passed for 2,772 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 754 yards and four touchdowns.

But while pro coaches want their quarterbacks mobile, able to scramble, they don't want them sweeping end or bulling off tackle. The moves which worked in college often don't in the pros. You're more apt to get a broken arm than to find yards on a broken play.

Jackson, in his first season as Raiders coach, said exactly what Davis would have said - maybe what Davis told him to say, not that Jackson doesn't have a degree of independence.

"The guy,'' insisted Jackson, alluding to Pryor, "had a very storied career at Ohio State. He can throw it. He can run with it. He's smart. He's tough. He's played in big games. He's another young athlete that we'll add to the mix who plays quarterback, and we'll work with him and get this guy to be a good player.''

He's already a good story, and for a Raiders team struggling for attention as well as success, that cannot be underestimated. Right, Al Davis?

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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