Rookie Pryor a playmaking hit in Jets debut
NEW YORK (AP) — It took all of three plays for Calvin Pryor to make an impact for the New York Jets.
Boom! Fumble recovery.
And that merely set the tone for the first-round draft pick’s NFL debut.
“A lot of guys, they questioned me because I had a concussion,” Pryor said of the media after the Jets’ 25-17 win at Cincinnati on Saturday night. “They felt like I wasn’t going to be as aggressive when I came back. That’s the way I play football. I try to play lights out.
“I try to put fear in my opponents.”
The hard-hitting safety entered the game early in the second quarter after missing the preseason opener following a concussion that sidelined him for a chunk of training camp. On third down, Rex Ryan sent Pryor on a blitz — and he blasted through the offensive line as Demario Davis sacked Matt Scott and caused a fumble.
Pryor was right there to pounce on it, setting up the Jets’ first touchdown.
“That was only step one,” he said. “I came out here to make plays tonight and I got more comfortable within myself as the game went on.”
He finished with a team-leading seven tackles, including one on special teams, two passes defensed, and the fumble recovery. He seemed to be all over the field and always around the ball while playing in a team-high 48 snaps on defense.
All of that came after some wondered if Pryor would be a bit tentative after dealing with a concussion early in camp.
Not a chance.
“Give him a plus,” Ryan said. “I don’t know, he forced like two fumbles and knocked some dudes out. I guess we were right on that one.”
While Ryan’s secondary drew some heat for a shaky performance against Andy Dalton and the Bengals’ starters, Pryor was a huge positive later in the game, even if it was just preseason and he was playing against backups.
“He did a really good job,” quarterback Michael Vick said. “He’s a football player. He made the plays he’s supposed to. That’s why he was drafted No. 1.”
Pryor, known as the “Louisville Slugger” for his physical approach in college with the Cardinals, was taken with the 18th overall pick in May. Ryan highlighted his aggressive style, calling him “an enforcer” shortly after the team drafted Pryor.
He had a solid offseason and came into training camp expected to compete for a starting job opposite Dawan Landry or Antonio Allen. But in the team’s third practice at SUNY Cortland — and first in full pads — Pryor suffered a concussion during a special teams drill and missed several practices while going through the NFL’s protocol for head injuries.
Pryor was cleared to play in the Jets’ preseason opener last week against the Indianapolis Colts, but Ryan opted to have him sit since he missed so much time on the field. So, by the time Saturday night came, Pryor was raring to go. And, it certainly showed.
Shortly before halftime, Scott tossed a pass to Cobi Hamilton, who was immediately smashed by Pryor on a play that was ruled incomplete.
“I think it should’ve been a forced fumble,” Pryor said.
Early in the fourth quarter, Pryor sniffed out a running play and took down Rex Burkhead for a 2-yard loss. Burkhead left the game with a knee injury after the low but clean tackle by Pryor.
He also tipped a pass at the line of scrimmage, and likely earned a chance at playing with the starters in the Jets’ next preseason game against the Giants next Friday night at MetLife Stadium.
“I feel like some things I could have done better,” Pryor said. “The older guys lined me up and put me in the right position to make plays. They told me, ‘Go have fun. Go ball out.’ That’s what I tried to do.”
AP Sports Writer Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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