CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- While the Raiders were clearing out of the locker room Sunday, Carson Palmer was at a hospital, getting checked out before boarding the team charter headed back to Oakland after a 17-6 loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium.
After taking a helmet to the back by defensive end Greg Hardy in the first quarter, Palmer's status is unclear for the season finale against the San Diego Chargers. X-rays on his ribs were negative.
If Palmer can't play, coach Dennis Allen made it clear the quarterback will be Matt Leinart, who struggled against the Panthers, and not Terrelle Pryor, who took three snaps in a specialty role.
"Matt's our backup quarterback," Allen said. "Terrelle's done a nice job. He's working extremely hard. We don't feel like he's ready to be the backup quarterback yet."
For now, Allen said, Pryor is best utilized with specific plays that suit his skills, rather than as an every-down quarterback in charge of managing a game.
Leinart had been on the field only once this season, throwing a single incompletion in the waning moments of a 55-20 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Nov. 11. He completed 16 of 32 passes for 115 yards and a costly interception to linebacker Luke Kuechly that set up Carolina's second touchdown.
It was Leinart's most extensive playing time since completing 21 of 31 passes for 220 yards on Nov. 29, 2009, for the Arizona Cardinals against the Tennessee Titans.
Leinart fared well on some quick-developing plays while hitting his first read but had trouble when those plays were taken away. Describing himself as "a little bit rusty," Leinart had his ball sail on some passes to the outside.
"I think I could have played better, definitely could have made more plays," Leinart said. "I thought we moved the ball pretty well. We just have to get touchdowns. But there were some throws I would like to have back."
Leinart said he spoke to Palmer briefly at halftime but wasn't sure as to the extent of his injury.
"I'm definitely going to prepare this week like I'm going to be starting," Leinart said.
Pryor, who has built a cult following of sorts on social media, played three times as a shotgun quarterback with Palmer and then Leinart split wide.
On the Raiders' second snap, Pryor threw a lateral to Palmer, who then threw a screen back to Pryor for a 22-yard gain. Later, Pryor gained 2 yards in a red zone run to the 4-yard line. On a third play, Palmer threw a 5-yard swing to Marcel Reece to the 3-yard line.
Pryor was uninterested in getting into a public debate about his playing time.
"I'm not the coach," Pryor said. "I definitely don't make decisions like that. I don't talk much, I just go out and do my job. Whatever God has for me, it's going to happen. If not, I'll be fine."