NAPA, Calif. — Matt Flynn is solidifying his role as starting quarterback for the Oakland Raiders one year after losing that same job in training camp in Seattle.
Flynn entered camp with the inside track over Terrelle Pryor and rookie Tyler Wilson to replace Carson Palmer in Oakland and has done nothing in the first week of camp to change that equation.
It’s a far cry to what happened to Flynn a year ago in Seattle where Flynn went from coveted offseason free-agent acquisition with a $26 million contract to backing up a third-round pick in a matter of weeks at training camp.
With Russell Wilson set as starter in Seattle, Flynn was traded to Oakland in the offseason and has done his best to hold onto this opportunity to start in the NFL.
“I took away a lot of things from Seattle last year,” Flynn said Tuesday. “But the thing that I took away the most was that I want this even more now, even more this year. I’m blessed to have another opportunity at this and I’ll try to take advantage of it and do as much as I can to not let it get away from me.”
Flynn has been the most impressive of the three quarterbacks so far in training camp with the most accurate arm, a good grasp of the offense and strong leadership on the field.
“I’m going in there and trying to be the best quarterback out here, trying to be the best quarterback for this team and help this team win as best I can,” Flynn said. “I’m coming in here every day with my hard hat on, trying to prepare.”
Flynn, a backup in college at LSU to former Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell, has started just two games in five seasons as a pro. But it’s those brief appearances that are so intriguing.
He threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns in a loss at New England in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers late in the 2010 season. He then started the regular-season finale the following season, going 31 for 44 for 480 yards and six touchdown passes in a 45-41 win over Detroit.
That led to the $26 million, three-year contract from the Seahawks. But Flynn struggled in the second exhibition game last summer and missed the third with an elbow injury. By that point Wilson passed him on the depth chart and Flynn was relegated to another year as a backup.
Despite winning a national championship at LSU and the impressive performances in his few chances in the NFL, Flynn still faces many doubters who question whether he has a strong enough arm to succeed in the pro game.
“To play quarterback in the NFL, to me, you have to be two things: You have to be smart and you have to be accurate,” he said. “Things on the field are going to come and you have to be able to do that as well, and I feel very confident in my ability to do that, but overall you have to be smart and accurate.”
Flynn got another chance to prove that when the Raiders dealt a 2014 fifth-round pick and a conditional pick in 2015 to Seattle.
While coach Dennis Allen has stressed an open competition at quarterback with Pryor and another rookie named Wilson — Tyler — nothing that has been seen so far in the offseason or camp indicates that Flynn won’t be the starter when the season opens Sept. 8 in Indianapolis.
Flynn has gotten the vast majority of the time with the first-team offense so far and is earning the trust of his teammates.
“It’s kind of playing out about like I expected. Matt Flynn has been pretty consistent,” coach Dennis Allen said. “Those guys are doing exactly what we want them to do, keep competing and keep playing. Don’t worry about the depth chart, just keep getting better.”
Part of what has solidified Flynn’s hold on the job is that neither Pryor nor Tyler Wilson has seized it the way Russell Wilson did a year ago.
Pryor, who provided a spark when he started the season finale last year, is still far too inconsistent throwing the ball but can be a dual threat as a scrambler or runner. Pryor has worked hard on improving his mechanics, spending the offseason working with former major league pitcher Tom House, who has also coached Tom Brady and Drew Brees.
“I found out that I was leaving my chest open a lot so it was making me late,” Pryor said. “So when I was coming down to throw with my left arm, my right arm was saying it’s time to go, the timing wasn’t right. He kind of helped me with that. It’s definitely helping shoot the ball a lot more and better. My thing looking in the mirror last year was I need to be more accurate.”
Tyler Wilson is an intriguing prospect who was drafted in the fourth round out of Arkansas. But he is still adjusting to the NFL game as evidenced by one practice early in camp when he threw three interceptions in a stretch of four plays.