Chad Under Center? The Signs Are Good

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Quarterback Chad Pennington sure knows the difference between being injured and just being hurt. Since becoming the Jets' full-time starter in 2002, Pennington has yet to be sidelined for the span of just one game.

Whenever his injuries come, they come hard. In 2005 he played in just the first three games of the year, missing 13 straight due to his injured shoulder. In 2004, he was inactive for three weeks in the middle of the season with an injury to the same shoulder. Flash back to 2003, when Chad missed the first six games due to a broken/dislocated wrist he suffered against the Giants in the preseason.

Each battle wound has shelved him for multiple weeks, but he has never gone down for just one week's time. After missing the last game against the Ravens and by the looks of things at the Jets complex this past week, that streak is about to end today against the Miami Dolphins.

"He did a really good job with the rehab. He was very diligent last week with it and has been diligent this week," head coach Eric Mangini said. "Getting to know Chad over the course of two years, that's how he is with everything."

"He always says he's ready to go. That's what you like about him."

The coaching and medical staffs laid out a plan for Pennington's rehab over the past two weeks and Mangini admitted that all was going well.

"He started with the first team and took the amount we had allocated for him," Mangini said on Wednesday. "I thought he looked good in the reps that he had. He moved pretty well."

Although the head coach sounds optimistic and Pennington appears both physically and mentally ready, there has been no official announcement of Week 3's starter.

"My goal is to be available," Pennington said. "I'm going to prepare just like I always prepare and work just as hard as I always have worked. Nothing has changed for me as far as my mindset and my focus and what I'm trying to do. I'll leave the decision up to coach.

"I worked and prepared extremely hard on an injury that normally takes some time," added the Jets' all-time leader in completion percentage.

Whether or not Pennington takes the reins back from Kellen Clemens remains to be seen. No one will officially know until No. 10 takes his usual spot under center — a place Pennington has grown to love over the last eight seasons.

"Every game I want to be there," he said. "I've experienced being on the sideline before with injuries and that's a horrible feeling because you can't help. Anytime you're injured it's a difficult thing to go through as a competitor."

As if he needed any further incentives to return, Pennington has had profound success against the Fins in his career, including a 4-0 record at home and 6-1 overall. His only loss to Miami came in the final game of the 2003 season, when the visiting Jets were edged, 23-21, even though Pennington's passer rating was 111.5.

In seven career starts against Miami, Pennington has thrown nine touchdowns to just one interception and has dipped below a 57 percent completion rate only once – when he went 14-for-29 in last year's rain-soaked 13-10 Christmas night victory.

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