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Clemens Has Teammates' Confidence, Respect


New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini didn't wait for a question to address his team's quarterback situation.

In his opening comments to the media today, he reiterated that Chad Pennington has a right ankle injury and the second-year head coach was noncommittal about his playing status for Sunday's game in Baltimore and beyond.

"I know there is a lot of interest in the injury situation, especially Chad's situation. It is the ankle, same as what was announced during the game," he said. "We'll review it through the course of the week and see where he is, like we do with every injury situation. This is the same process for anybody that's injured and that's really all there is in terms of an update on him or any of the various injuries from Sunday."

Pennington got hurt on a third-quarter sack by Patriots DE Jarvis Green. Green brought the signalcaller to the ground and his ankle twisted awkwardly. Pennington limped to the sideline and missed a play but returned to lead a third-quarter scoring drive on a heavily taped ankle. But after his second TD pass to Laveranues Coles, Pennington's day was done and Kellen Clemens finished in relief.

It was Clemens' first extended regular-season action of his NFL career. He took 11 snaps and finished the afternoon 5-of-10 passing for 35 yards. He shined during preseason action but entered this game in a pass-first mode with the Jets down big.

"That's when the defense has its ears pinned back," Mangini said. "The running game isn't much of a threat at that point. It's really a one-dimensional game, which always makes it more difficult. There were a few plays that I thought he executed pretty well, and there were some that obviously we need to work on, but it's not unique to Kellen — that's all of us across the board."

If Pennington can't suit up Sunday against the Ravens, Clemens, a second-round draft pick from Oregon in 2006, would make his first NFL start.

"It's my second year in the offense and I had a chance to get some live bullets this last week, so I'm going to go in there and do the best that I can," he said to a large media gathering this afternoon.

The Jets are confident in Clemens if his number is called. Coles, an offensive captain, said everyone will be responsible no matter who is throwing the ball.

"Depending on what happens, everybody will have to step up. That's what this game is about, people filling in and making it happen when it's their turn to make plays," he said. "That is the main thing. Whatever happens and whoever is in there, we all have to step up and make plays."

Jerricho Cotchery believes players can gain the respect of their teammates in the team's off-season program. Clemens has more than a year under his belt now and Cotchery sees a more relaxed player.

"It's his second year and he's just more comfortable, period," he said. "In your first year, you're trying to get established, you're trying to do everything to gain respect from your teammates. He already has that now, so he's able to focus on a lot of other things instead of trying to gain respect and things like that. You can focus better as an individual within the system."

Over the past 24 hours, there has been a lot of discussion over the fan reaction when Pennington went down and was replaced by Clemens. Kellen's wife, Nicole, was at home watching the game and the injury triggered an emotional response. In 2005, Clemens broke the fibula in his left leg and damaged ankle ligaments in a conference game against Arizona.

"When he [Pennington] went down, she didn't even notice I was going in," Clemens said. "She was crying because he was hurt. She has been through that a year or two ago. It should be nothing but concern for Chad at a moment like that."

The 2006 AP Comeback Player of the Year, who has guided the Jets to the playoffs in each of the three seasons he has started at least 12 games, may or may not be in the lineup Sunday. Penny's backup will continue to prepare like he will get the ball and study a little bit this evening.

"It will be good to get a chance to see what Baltimore does tonight," Clemens said of the Ravens game with the Cincinnati Bengals. "Yeah, absolutely, I'll be sitting at home and probably take a little time to watch some Monday Night football."

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