As a longtime NFL backup quarterback, Matt Leinart has been trained to be ready for anything. But he admitted Thursday that he was caught off guard when the Raiders decided he and Terrelle Pryor would wage a battle of the backup quarterbacks in practice for the right to start Sunday's season finale at San Diego.
Leinart has been the No. 2 quarterback all season with Pryor No. 3. When starter Carson Palmer suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung last week in the first quarter at Carolina, ending his season, Leinart replaced him and took all but two snaps for the remainder. Those two snaps went to Pryor.
"I just think in this situation, I think I deserve to play, I deserve to start," Leinart said. "Not sure what's going to happen, but that's all you can do -- just keep preparing, keep working hard, be here, be accountable and whatever happens, whatever decision is made, that's what's made. You can't do anything about it.
"So if they want to start Terrelle and evaluate him and see what he can do, then I'll support that, and I'll help him this week and help him during the game. But if they make me the starter, I'm just going to go out there and try to capitalize on that opportunity."
Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Leinart and Pryor have split the practice reps evenly this week. Pryor said Leinart is getting the majority of practice reps. Leinart said they're "splitting them pretty good." Because Raiders' practices are off-limits to the media other than for a short window before full-team drills begin, it's hard to tell between fact and fiction.
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If Leinart had played better in Sunday's 17-6 loss to Carolina, he might have eliminated all the mystery. But he went 16 of 32 for 115 yards with a costly interception and a passer rating of 45.7.
"He didn't play as well as I would have liked," offensive coordinator Greg Knapp said. "I wished his footwork would have been better on a consistent basis. It's hard for any backup quarterback to come in on short notice without any reps, but that comes with the job. You got to know that going in. He struggled a little bit with the footwork and his consistency. He had it sometimes but not all the time.
"I was disappointed on the interception in the two-minute drill. I wish that would not have occurred. He made some other good third-down decisions, though, that kept some drives alive. But that was the one glaring mistake that I saw that I wish he would have just checked the ball down."
Leinart had thrown one regular-season pass before Sunday and took only a handful of practice reps going into the game.
"It's always hard, and I'm not one to ever make excuses, you know?" Leinart said. "I'm my own worst critic. I'm always hard on myself no matter what. But it is, it's hard to go in and get a rhythm. ... But that's our job, so that's why you have to be accountable for that. But it's always hard because you don't prepare. I mean, you prepare as best you can during the week, but you don't get a lot of reps. You just take mental reps."
Starting quarterbacks typically get almost all of the first-team snaps during practice because that's considered the best way for them to prepare for a game.
"Yeah, I agree with that, but like I said, I can't control any of that. It kind of is what it is," Leinart said. "It's a unique situation with a guy like Terrelle, who I know they probably want to see what he can do for the future. And I've been around the league. I understand that as a professional. I understand the business part of this league. But would I love all the reps? Absolutely. But that's not the case, and that's fine. Regardless if he starts or I start, I'm going to have to expect to play."
Whichever quarterback starts, both will almost certainly see action. Pryor has come off the bench the past two games and taken a handful of snaps.
"Possibly could use both," Knapp said. "We used both last week, didn't we? Yep, definitely."
Follow Raiders reporter Eric Gilmore on Twitter @CBSRaiders.