The air was heavy, the temperatures were hot and a wet field was soaking players' socks in a morning practice that was setting up to be most uncomfortable.
All of this did not matter to Chad Pennington.
A short time after the Jets finished stretching, the quarterback did a bellyflop into the mud of the grass field in the Hofstra soccer stadium. Crazy? Maybe. But with Chad there is always a purpose.
"Well, if you don't watch, training camp can get pretty negative with your attitude and body language, just your whole thought process," he said. "I tried to give us a spark. I don't know if it worked or not, but it sure made me wet and muddy and miserable, I know that."
As Pennington prepares the offense mentally and physically two days before the team's first preseason game, he does so with a newfound confidence in his second year learning the scheme.
"Chad's approach is consistent," said head coach Eric Mangini. "He does the same thing each day. He has an impressive approach to it all, and with a year under his belt and not having to learn the basic part of the system, he's able to draw on that knowledge, build on that knowledge and expand it. He's done some really good things in camp."
The quarterback has been particularly sharp the past few days. Inspired by a simulation of the famous 92-yard drive led by Joe Montana and the 49ers to win Super Bowl XXIII at the end of practice yesterday, Pennington led the first offense on a long march to the end zone in which the quarterback was 15-of-17 passing, delivering precise short throws down the field.
He capped the drive with a spiral off his back foot that traveled 25 yards in the air over three defenders into the hands of Laveranues Coles, who tapped his two left feet in bounds before falling out of the side of the end zone.
"I feel good physically," said Pennington. "I feel like I've been able to come in here, make progress, try to create chemistry and a feel for our receivers, tight ends and running backs. That's always the number one goal: to try to increase mentally and get better mentally within the offense and make sure I start to become an expert in this offense"
While Pennington has looked strong for the balance of training camp, the offense as a unit has been inconsistent. Pennington's attempt to lead a 90-yard drive last night ended at midfield, and today, the entire second offense took a lap together because of sloppy play. CP hopes the preseason will iron out any of the kinks the unit still has.
"With preseason games, you've got to make sure you take them seriously and make sure you're getting better week in and week out, preparing yourself for game-like situations and game opportunities," he said. "We've got a lot of work to do in trying to make sure everyone's on the same page, communicating and thinking the same way and being able to make adjustments on the run. That's always most important."
One of the things Pennington has worked on, in conjunction with Mangini and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, is his play-calling, when left to his own devices, in the huddle.
"Coaches want to see how I think as a quarterback, how we react as a team under certain situations when we don't have the help of the coaches," said Pennington. "The biggest thing in the NFL, a lot of the times defenses have your plays covered. How you adjust on the run as players throughout the play within those four or five seconds, that makes all the difference in the world in keeping the chains moving or having to punt and not having success."
According to Mangini, Pennington is often sent out on the field with two or three plays and it is up to the quarterback to pick which is best according to his read on the defense.
Occasionally, he is all on his own to call the play.
"What I hope is that it creates confidence in our coaching staff to know that if something goes wrong or something messes up that they have confidence in me to get us in the right play and confidence in our offense, to execute even when we're not told exactly what to do, that we can get it done anyhow," said Pennington.
"Players play the game. You got to make sure you understand that."
Not many understand that better than Pennington.