“I told ‘em I was back,” Pryor said with a chuckle on ESPN New York’s postgame show. “I’m back to real form now.”
After missing the preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts while recovering from a concussion he suffered during the third practice of training camp, the Jets’ first-round draft pick was all over the field at Paul Brown Stadium.
He wasted no time getting acclimated to the NFL, recovering a fumble forced by LB
“I got in in the second quarter, got in with some of the ones, got some reps with the ones,” he said. “It felt pretty good. I made plays early and once we got the momentum, we took it from there.”
Pryor lived up to his nickname of “The Louisville Slugger,” delivering clean, powerful hits to Cincinnati players. With 1:54 remaining in the second quarter, Pryor forced an incompletion after jarring the ball loose from WR Cobi Hamilton — a play that Pryor said he thought was a forced fumble.
In the fourth quarter, he continued to display his versatility, coming off the edge and hitting Bengals RB Rex Burkhead, resulting in a 2-yard loss.
On the field, 25 in green all over the place. Heck of a debut for Calvin Pryor.— Eric Allen (@eallenjets) August 17, 2014
Pryor’s performance and ability to find a way to lay big hits on offensive players garnered respect from the reigning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year,
“He’s most definitely coming in and filling those holes like he’s supposed to and in coverage he’s trying to clean people up like he’s supposed to,” Richardson said. “And he’s keeping it legal, he’s aiming for the legs, so you can’t knock him for that. He’s hitting.”
Richardson added that Pryor’s prowess as a hitter has earned him a new nickname of “Little Bam-Bam” in the Jets’ locker room.
Pryor’s performance also caught the eye of head coach Rex Ryan, who said it appears the Jets made a great decision to choose Pryor with the No. 18 pick in the 2014 draft.
“Calvin Pryor was good, man,” Ryan said during his news conference. “He looked pretty good to me.”
Although coming off an impressive debut, Pryor said he still has to work on getting signals correctly and lining up against different formations. The reps he received in this game, he said, were vital, especially since he sat out against the Colts.
“Those reps that I had missed were very important because we had installed a lot of defenses during that time,” he said. “So it’s important that I catch up and get on the same page with everybody else.”
Despite the seriousness of concussions in the NFL, Pryor said immediately after his return that he wouldn’t allow the injury to change his style of play and stood by that statement after the game.
“A lot of guys questioned me, because I had a concussion,” he said. “They questioned my aggressiveness. That’s the way I play football. I’m an aggressive player. Tonight was step one.”
Former Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff named Pryor his MetLife MVP of the game for the impact he made defensively.
“This man has missed a lot of time with a concussion, and now he’s just finally getting back into it, but tonight you saw what he can do,” he said on the ESPN New York postgame show. “He is so physical and explosive that he makes a lot of things happen.”
Pryor will look to carry some of the momentum he’s built into the game against the Giants on Friday.
VIEW: Preseason Week 2: Jets at Bengals
READ: Highlights of Jets' 25-17 Win at Cincinnati
WATCH: Jets Enter the Jungle
WATCH: Rex Ryan Addresses Squad After 25-17 Triumph
WATCH: Vick: Powell's Impact Was 'Greatly Felt'