The mentoring cycle continues to spin within the locker room walls of Weeb Ewbank Hall. Luckily for the Jets, it involves a pair of the most knowledgeable and influential players the club has ever had.
Chad Pennington's injury Sunday against the Patriots has led him back to a familiar place: the trainer's room. The Jets captain has spent countless days of his eight-year career in this room. Other than trainers and team doctors, one person who has helped him along his travels has been recently retired running back and future Hall of Famer Curtis Martin.
"Curtis was a mentor of mine," said Pennington at his weekly news conference today. "I watched him deal with injuries; work through things and just do an excellent job of handling that type of physical adversity."
Martin, who recently had to hang up his cleats due to an ongoing battle with his injured right knee, repeatedly offered Pennington a simple yet inspirational piece of advice.
"Attitude," Pennington stated. "He always talked about maintaining a positive attitude and never believing that you're not going to play. Always expecting to play and always expecting to be ready by Sunday. That was always his mindset."
These words have clearly stuck.
"I believe a big part of healing and getting back is having the right attitude," Pennington said. "I want to be out there every snap, every rep, practice, games. Whatever it is, I want to be there."
Pennington may miss a few snaps this week, but his focus remains on getting normal reps in preparation for the Ravens. However, because the status of the Jets captain is still undecided — he is listed on today's injury report as limited in his participation in practice — a lot of pressure has been placed on the shoulders of his second-year backup, Kellen Clemens.
That's where Pennington's services to this team become more evident. During this troubling time, he has remained the rock on which Clemens has been leaning for over a year now. The elder quarterback is effectively promoting what he has learned from Martin over the years and Clemens has picked up on all the right attributes.
"It's his work ethic, his ability to put in the hours that he does," Clemens said of Pennington. "He's a very cerebral quarterback. He's very generous, the wealth of knowledge that he has. He'll take the time to answer the questions and help me along. I owe him a lot.
"I'm trying to figure out what he's thinking as much as possible," said Clemens, who was 5-for-10 for 35 yards passing against the Patriots. "Whatever it is that's happening with him right now, he's doing a great job of continuing to be open for my questions, which can still be pesty at some times. We're involved in the same conversations, the same discussions. I lean on Chad every week. He's a great guy."
Even with a potential first career start against last year's best overall defense preoccupying Clemens' mind, the former Oregon slinger doesn't appear fazed.
"I'm sleeping pretty normal this week so far," he laughed.
"I'm sticking to my normal routine that I go through every week so that if my number's called on Sunday, I'll be as ready as possible. You approach each week like you are going to be the starter. "
In no surprise, Clemens' tutor confidently agrees.
"He's done a good job preparing himself," Pennington said. "The most difficult part about being a backup quarterback is you never know when your opportunity will arise and you have to be able to take advantage of it.
"He'll be fine. Whatever happens, I'll be right there supporting my teammates and making sure I can do everything I can. From last year to this year, he's learned how to prepare and learned how to make sure he's doing all the right things both on and off the field to get ready to play."