The life of a first round pick carries some unreasonable expectations. For Jets rookie safety Calvin Pryor, those expectations have now led to a hard fall. It's a fall he promises to rise from again.
Two weeks ago, Pryor was benched in favor of Jaiquawn Jarrett, who registered two interceptions, a sack and a recovered fumble in his first start of the season. It was a performance that garnered Jarrett AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors and now it looks like Pryor may have a spot on the bench for awhile longer.
Anointed a starter in the preseason before he was truly ready, Pryor now has to stand and watch while the unheralded Jarrett – cut once already in his career – takes his starting spot.
“I admit that it isn't easy. It's not," Pryor told Metro. "You don't want to take a back seat. You want to be out there playing, working. Humbling? I don't know about that. It's part of the process though.
“It's making me better as a football player. Now I'm in the back seat, learning a lot more, things I didn't see before. I think it will make me a better individual. Once I bounce back from all of this, it will make me a better football player.
It is tough, but at the same time, when you watch, everything slows down. You can really see what's going on. With me being a rookie, being thrown into the fire, now I can sit back and see where I can make a change, where I can do it differently.”
It is a bit of a reverse course for a rookie to go from starter to on the bench. But much like quarterback Geno Smith, now in his second year in the league, Pryor has gone from entrenched in the starting lineup to a less significant role. It is a sign of the times in the land of the Jets, where rookies are overvalued and placed in Canton before the first snap of preseason.
Part of the problem centers on the Jets themselves and their push in recent years to justify draft picks, in particular high draft picks. Pryor and Smith join the likes of Kyle Wilson, Quinton Coples and perhaps last year's first round pick Dee Milliner, all of whom were rushed into prominent roles on the team without earning them.
An NFL scout tells Metro of Pryor: “He's a good player, but he has lots of work to do. Calvin Pryor can play at this level, [but he's] not very comfortable in open space, but he can grow into that role ... he's not there yet. Can he be? I think so. But he needs time.”
For now, Pryor has no choice but to sit and watch and “take in everything I can.” As unconventional as the process might be, the starting rookie is now forced to wait.
“I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world. I was ready for the moment, I still am. Had a relapse. I need to come back, play with a chip on my shoulder and come back when the time is right for me to come back,” Pryor said. “I put it in God's hand. I pray every day. I come to work, I love what I do. I wouldn't change this for nothing in the world. I'm pretty sure the opportunity will present itself again and when it does, I need to be ready to roll.”