It’s official: Chad Pennington will start at quarterback for the New York Jets.
The odds were stacked against Chad Pennington from the moment he felt the pain in his right shoulder more than 11 months ago. Could he possibly come back from a second major shoulder surgery? And if so, would he be anything close to the quarterback he once was?
With each painless and precise throw during this preseason, Pennington proved the doubters wrong. And on Tuesday, he stood in front of his locker smiling, moments after it was announced by coach Eric Mangini that Pennington will be the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.
“I wasn’t surprised at how everything went, but at the same time, I was more or less relieved because I didn’t know what to expect,” said Pennington, 10 months removed from his last rotator cuff surgery. “There were a lot of variables going on and a lot of different things that could happen.”
“I’m just focused like I’ve always been,” Pennington said. “Nothing’s changed as far my focus or preparation. I’m just excited to help this team win, really, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Pennington originally hurt the shoulder in 2004, when he missed three games, then returned for the end of the regular season and the playoffs. He had rotator cuff surgery, and was able to come back last season, but was injured in the third game when sacked on consecutive plays by Jacksonville on Sept. 25. Pennington again had surgery and missed the rest of the season, putting his playing future in doubt.
“He deserves all the credit, and more, because of all he’s gone through to get back to this point,” wide receiver Laveranues Coles said.
With Pennington’s status unclear heading into the season, the Jets acquired Patrick Ramsey from Washington and drafted Kellen Clemens in the second round out of Oregon. The three, along with Brooks Bollinger, were competing for the starting job. Pennington proved he was healthy early in camp and showed he could run the offense. Still, Mangini refused to commit to him until Tuesday.
“I’ve thought quite a bit about this,” Mangini said. “It’s become really clear to me he’s distinguished himself in the way I was looking for. He’s made great progress throughout the preseason, especially over the last couple weeks. That consistency I’ve been looking for has been there: his presence, his ability to move the team, his leadership. He’s done an outstanding job, and it’s clear to me he should be the starter — and he will be.”
Of course, when Patrick Ramsey is your backup, winning the starting job is just a little bit easier.
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