Kellen Clemens was never told he was going to start Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. The second-year Jets quarterback simply took the field on the Jets' first offensive possession.
"As soon as our defense forced that first punt, I just kind of jogged out on the field and nobody told me not to," he said today with a big smile.
After Chad Pennington suffered a right ankle injury against the Patriots in the season opener. Clemens prepared all week for his first professional start.
"As I said the whole week, I was approaching it like I was going to be the starter," he told reporters. "Until somebody told me otherwise, I was going to start."
Head coach Eric Mangini apparently never said anything to Clemens before kickoff. The Jets are known to stay mum on a number of issues, but this took competitive advantage to another level.
"He didn't want to give out any information as far as to the Ravens as to who was going to start so they could prepare," said the second-year passer. "If I didn't know for sure, then I couldn't tell you guys for sure."
Prior to the Jets' 20-13 loss to the Ravens, Clemens attempted to ease his teammates' concerns before Sunday's kickoff.
"I got a lot more reps with the No. 1 offense throughout the week," he said. "The major difference in my preparation was trying to really earn their trust throughout the course of the week so when we got out there on Sunday, they didn't have as many concerns having a young quarterback out there."
The game results were encouraging. The Green & White nearly pulled off an improbable comeback as the Burns, Ore., native completed 10 passes in the final quarter for 176 yards. The Jets couldn't cash in on their final drive, though, as Clemens' final pass was deflected into his second interception of the day, a game-saving pick by LB Ray Lewis.
"It was a nice boost of confidence against a very good defense and a pretty hostile environment," Clemens said. "We were able to move the ball in a game that wasn't going real smoothly, battle back and make a pretty good dang game of it. That helps confidence for me considering the limited action that I have."
The strong-armed signal caller was sacked four times by the Ravens and hit on a few other occasions. That Ravens physicality was still felt a day later.
"It's a good soreness," said the 6'2", 223 pounder. "It's a lot better to be sore because you're playing than because you were standing on the sideline the whole time."
The message coming out of Weeb Ewbank Hall is that Chad Pennington's still the guy. When Penny is healthy, he'll resume his customary role behind center.
"If Chad is able to go, Chad is the starter. That puts me as a backup, so what I do is prepare as best I can to be ready to play," Clemens said. "If it's me who ends up getting the opportunity, I'll try to be as ready as I can. If Chad is ready to go, I'm sure he'll go and he's obviously a great player."
The Jets host the Dolphins on Sunday at the Meadowlands in what amounts to a critical game at this point of the season. Both teams are 0-2 and don't want to build too deep of a hole. Clemens may be back on the sideline for the divisional contest, but he already made a statement with his effort yesterday.
"He handled himself great. I think he managed the game incredibly well, being a first-time start in a hostile environment against a great defense," said FB Darian Barnes. "I was really impressed by Kellen and he's going to be a great quarterback in this league. There is no doubt about it."
Accepting of his role, Clemens has the itch to get back there in the saddle. And that's the attitude you want if you're the Jets.
"I love playing whether that's out there on Sundays or in the backyard with friends and family," he said. "You are always looking for the opportunity to play, but it's a game of knowing your role and executing that role to the best of your ability so you can help the team out."