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Pryor to get 1st start at QB for Raiders

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Pryor to get 1st start at QB for Raiders

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) The Oakland Raiders are ready to get a long look at Terrelle Pryor to see if he can be their quarterback of the future.

Pryor got the nod to start Sunday's season finale in San Diego in place of the injured Carson Palmer. After being deemed not ready to be the backup when Palmer got hurt last week in Carolina, Pryor now gets the chance to make his first career start.

``We know what his strengths are, we know what his weaknesses are,'' coach Dennis Allen said Friday. ``But really, to give him an opportunity to go out in a game, against a division opponent, at their place, and give him a chance to play, it gives us a view into the future.''

Allen said he told Pryor and Matt Leinart early in the week that he was leaning to Pryor but wanted to see how practice developed. He said he thought Pryor responded well and now wants to see what his athleticism can bring to a team that has failed to score a touchdown the past two weeks.

Pryor said he's confident he is ready to start his first game since the Sugar Bowl for Ohio State against Arkansas on Jan. 4, 2011, but admitted to having some anxiety.

``I'm nervous. Until the first play I'm going to be nervous,'' he said. ``I'm human like you guys. I'm human like everybody. I just happen to play one of the best sports in the world. I'll be nervous until the first snap.''

Pryor was taken in the third round of the supplemental draft in August 2011 by late Raiders owner Al Davis. Pryor missed almost all of training camp and then served a five-game suspension before he could be activated. He got on the field just once as a rookie - committing a false start before his only play - as he needed to work on his footwork and mechanics.

Pryor got a few chances to shine in the preseason but was then inactive the first 11 games of this year. He played briefly the past two weeks in specialty packages. He completed one of two passes for 5 yards, ran the ball once for 2 yards and caught a 22-yard pass.

Pryor said he guarantees he will have no problems with the logistics of quarterback, calling the play in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage on time and recognizing defenses.

``I'm confident,'' he said. ``I'm sure my teammates have confidence in me as well. Like I said, you can't put everything on my shoulders, can't try to do everything. Just go out and let the players make plays and let myself make plays.''

Pryor will be the 15th player to start at quarterback for the Raiders since the start of the 2003 season.

``Of course he brings the running ability, but he's trying to be a leader out there, have command of the huddle and doing the job that a starting quarterback should do,'' receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey said.

Leinart had hoped to be able to make his third start since 2007 but thought the Raiders might give the nod to Pryor to see what he can do in a real game.

``The competitor in me wants to play, wants to start, but I do understand that they need to evaluate him, and I get that,'' Leinart said. ``Obviously, you're not happy by any means, but at the same time I'm a team player. I've learned a lot this year, and I'm happy to help.''

The Raiders also could have a new starter on the offensive line as starting right guard Mike Brisiel missed his third straight practice as he recovers from an ankle injury and concussion.

Brisiel, one of Oakland's biggest free-agent signings this past offseason, has struggled in his first season with the Raiders. He has committed a team-high 10 penalties and been part of a running game that has struggled to generate any consistency.

Brisiel is listed as questionable and will be a game-time decision. If he can't start, rookie Tony Bergstrom would get the nod. Bergstrom was Oakland's top draft pick in April at 95th overall but has struggled to get on the field. He has played eight games this season and gotten 75 snaps on offense, with most coming as a tight end in Oakland's six-linemen alignment.

``He's going to go through some growing pains like any new player would,'' offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. ``I feel good about him. I like what I've seen in practice. I also have seen the rookie mistakes that I know this might show up in a game. But I'm looking forward to get him some reps to see him play live.''

NOTES: CB Phillip Adams will be placed on IR with a groin injury and be replaced in the lineup by Brandian Ross, who has played well as a reserve in recent weeks. ... DB Cory Nelms and DL Brandon Bair will be activated from the practice squad for Sunday's game. S Tyvon Branch (neck, ankle) returned to practice Friday and is listed as questionable.

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Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

Three things to watch for Wizards' regular season opener against the Heat

The Washington Wizards open their regular season on Thursday night against the Miami Heat. Tipoff is at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. 

Here are three things to watch...

Will Howard play?

Just one week ago, it would have seemed near impossible that Dwight Howard, the Wizards' biggest offseason acquisition, would be ready to play in the season opener, but after three solid days of practice, it can't be ruled out. The Wizards plan to evaluate him throughout the day on Thursday to determine if he can take the court in what would be his first live game action with his new team.

Howard, 32, missed the entire preseason and nearly all of their practices leading up to the opener with a strained piriformis muscle. Though reports have been encouraging from his three practices, he is not yet in game shape. Even if he can play, expect him to be limited. If he can't play, Ian Mahinmi will get the start.

Heat are banged up

Miami is not only coming off a game the night before, as they lost in their season opener to the Orlando Magic, but they are missing some key guys. Dion Waiters, James Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Justise Winslow are out due to injuries.

That will leave Miami perilously thin at the guard and small forward position. That happens to be an area of the roster where the Wizards are especially deep, now with Austin Rivers as the backup shooting guard behind Bradley Beal and with first round pick Troy Brown Jr. behind Otto Porter Jr. and Kelly Oubre Jr.

That said, Waiters and Ellington being out means Dwyane Wade may get more run and, as we saw in the preseason, he is still very hard to stop. He is capable of a big night, especially given it's so early in the year and he doesn't yet have the wear-and-tear of a long season.

Can Beal reach the next level?

One of the most important indicators of how much better the Wizards will be this season is the continued improvement of their young players. John Wall, Porter and Oubre are included in that and particularly Oubre, who is entering an important season in the final year of his contract.

But the guy who improved more than anyone last year and has a chance to take another big leap this season is Beal. Now with one All-Star nod under his belt, what does he have for an encore? 

If Beal can get his scoring average up even higher from the 22.6 he put up last season, he could enter the All-NBA conversation. And he now has more help than ever with Rivers behind him. Beal should, in theory, be more fresh each night with Rivers taking away some of his workload. 

The Heat offer a good matchup defensively for Beal with Josh Richardson. He is one of the more underrated players in basketball and is a menace on the perimeter.

"I've been a fan of his since I played him in college at Tennessee," Beal said. "He's always been a pest. He's super athletic, sneaky athletic. And I feel like he developed his shot to where you have to respect it. If you go under [on screens], he's shooting it."

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Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

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Wide receiver Willie Snead thriving with Ravens as man in the middle

OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- Willie Snead has a knack for weaving through a row of linebackers in the middle of the field before making a clutch catch for the Baltimore Ravens.

Such was the case last Sunday against Tennessee, when Snead squeezed between two defenders for a 24-yard gain on a third-and-17 from the Baltimore 15.

"He's on the ground, he makes the catch, he's getting pushed back to the ground, stepped all over, and he just gets up and gives the first-down signal right there in the guy's face," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "That's the kind of competitor he is. He's all ball, all the time."

Baltimore general manager Ozzie Newsome rarely chases restricted free agents, but he made an exception with Snead this past offseason after it became apparent that the receiver's three-year run in New Orleans was done. One of Drew Brees' favorite targets in 2015 and 2016, Snead began last season with a three-game suspension for violating the NFL personal conduct policy. He then fought a hamstring injury and finished with just eight catches for 92 yards and no touchdowns.

Armed with a two-year, $10.4 million contract, Snead was delighted to arrive in Baltimore last April.

"Last year just left a really bitter taste in my mouth, the organization and how everything was handled," Snead said Tuesday. "To be a part of this organization was just a breath of fresh air. I wanted to go somewhere where I'm wanted."

It couldn't have worked out better for Snead -- and the Ravens.

"To see that you were right, to see all that come together and him play so well, being exactly what you thought you were going to get, is very rewarding," Harbaugh said.

Snead was one of three free agent receivers signed by Newsome in an effort to enhance a passing game that sputtered in 2017. Snead is the possession receiver, Michael Crabtree provides an outside threat and John Brown is the speedster.

Snead and Crabtree are tied for the team lead with 30 catches. Brown has 21 receptions for a team-high 424 yards and three touchdowns.

"I don't have the physical ability like John Brown to run by you, and I'm not big and strong like Michael Crabtree," Snead observed, "so I have to work harder than everybody else just to stand out."

That's how it's always been for Snead, who finally finds himself in a place where his talent is acknowledged and appreciated.

"This is a guy that's been doubted his whole career -- high school, college and the NFL," Harbaugh said. "So I'm fine if they keep doubting him."

After starring as a quarterback at Muskegon Heights in Michigan, Snead played three years as a receiver at Ball State before going undrafted in 2014. He finally made it to the NFL the following year.

"Coming out of college, (people said) I left too early, I wasn't ready to play in the NFL," Snead recalled. "And in the NFL, it was, `Is he fast enough to separate? Can he make those plays in clutch situations?' I've always been doubted."

Not anymore.

"I'll tell you one thing, Willie comes Sunday ready to play," Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said. "He's one of the toughest guys I've been around."

This Sunday, the Ravens (4-2) host the Saints (4-1). Snead insists this wasn't one of those games that he circled on the calendar.

"This is another team. I have to approach it that way just to stay focused," Snead said.

New Orleans coach Sean Payton has seen enough of Snead this season to know he's a threat with the ball, and without it.

"He has a tremendous amount of grit. You see him making plays on third down," Payton said. "He's an outstanding blocker. He'll come across in motion, he'll get to the point of attack in the run game, but he'll also find the holes in the zone and man-to-man coverages."

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Snead has no problem mixing it up with anyone, large or small, at any spot on the field.

"He can go inside or outside, but man, he makes some -- scouts call them blood area -- catches," Harbaugh said. "In the middle, that's where he thrives."

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