The Jets made Chad Pennington available to the media via a conference call late Sunday evening. Pennington, who is rehabbing his right shoulder at the IMG Academies in Bradenton, Florida, and the Green & White reached an agreement to restructure Pennington's contract on Sunday. Here are excerpts from the call...
Chad Pennington: I'm extremely excited about mutually agreeing with the Jets on a restructured contract. I've always wanted to get to this point because I've wanted to be a Jet throughout this whole process, and I want to finish what I have started and what we have started as a Jet organization, and I'm extremely excited about that.
It was a lengthy process and negotiation, although some may have wanted it to turn into a soap opera, it never was that, and I want to extend my appreciation to Mr. Mike Tannenbaum and Coach Mangini for their open lines of communication with me and my agent, Tom Condon. Professionalism was kept in the entire process and that's important when you're negotiating and when you're trying to do what's best for yourself and for the organization. To that, I'm very thankful for them and what they stand for.
I think we have the right plan and the right attitude set forth to take the organization to the next level, and I've always talked about winning a championship as the Jet quarterback ever since I've been drafted. I'm glad that now I have another opportunity to try to make that happen and I'm very excited about that.
I've been very thankful for the Jet fans and for their loyalty and passion that they display every Sunday. All they ask for is a champion, and I'm definitely focused on bringing that championship to Jet fans and to the City of New York. That's very important to me and what I want to get accomplished as a player.
Q. Did you need to hear from the Jets that you were still a viable candidate to be the starter or was this just about yourself - no matter what the situation was - wanting to come back to the Jets?
Chad Pennington: Well, I think with the Jets wanting me to still be part of the team, I think that says that they still want me to be a viable starter and to be a part of this team as a starting quarterback.
If they did not think that I could not be the starting quarterback, then I don't think they would want to renegotiate at all. Mike and I have talked as well as Coach Mangini, and we both have a similar vision and I'm very excited about that.
My whole focus right now is to get healthy and to be healthy. When I'm healthy, no one can really argue with the success we've had as a team or myself as a quarterback, and that's my whole focus. If I'm not healthy, I can't play for the Jets or anybody else. So I need to focus on that. That's why I'm in Florida training and rehabbing and doing everything that I can to come back to play at a high level.
Q. Most people anticipate the Jets will go out and sign a veteran quarterback and/or perhaps draft one. How will these decisions impact your approach to your job, coming back here and trying to win that starting job again?
They won't have any impact on me at all. The reason that those decisions won't have any impact on me and my preparations is because I can't control those decisions, and the Jets have to make what they feel is the appropriate steps and appropriate decisions to take this organization to the next level. And I think I'm included in that. If I'm not, that's an organizational decision and we'll move on from there.
They don't impact me as far as how I feel about the Jets or how I'm trying to prepare and get myself ready to play. My focus is trying to get healthy, get back to playing at the level I know I can play at and be there for my teammates. I'm really excited about that.
Q. Could you start of summarize what you interpreted Eric's decision being as it pertains to you?
Well, I think that Coach wants me to lead this team if at all possible. Obviously as a coach, he has to make the final decision and he has to feel in his heart that he can believe in me and have no doubt that I can help our team win and lead this team. A lot of that has to do with my health. He defended me when he was with the Patriots; he knows what type of player I am. I think that we both have mutual respect for each other, and he knows that I can get the job done. It's just a matter of getting healthy and getting back to the form that I know I can play at.
Q. Were there any times in the dark times of rehab you're doing that you wondered if it was over in New York for you and you might be faced with having to move on and be someplace else?
Well, I definitely prepared myself for that in case that happens. Anytime you're doing a big negotiation, you have to look at both sides and you have to prepare yourself for both the positive and the negative. I had to prepare myself and my family for both situations, one on continuing being a Jet and staying in New York, and on another, moving to another team and who that team would be, I had no idea.
So we had prepared for that, I had prepared myself for that emotionally. That's why it takes so long when you're trying to renegotiate and restructure as a player. You really have to look at what you want out of your career. Where do you think the best place is for your career to continue and to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish?
And in the bottom of my heart I felt like New York was the place for me to be. I was just hoping that we would come to a mutual agreement where both sides would be committed and both sides would share some risks.
Q. Are you comfortable with the fact that they are sharing risks as well as you are in this process?
Absolutely. I think the deal that we have reached allows both sides to share the risks and it shows that both sides are committed to winning and to getting the job done.
You know, it's definitely been a team effort within the negotiation process, and that's why we have kept the communication lines open. We never let emotions get involved, and that was really important to me that happened and that we were able to maintain that professionalism. I think that's why we were able to reach an agreement.
My dad is a coach, so I know personnel meetings are not very pretty sometimes, so I understood where the organization was coming from. Mike and Eric laid their concerns out there, and Tom and I laid our concerns out there, and we worked through those things. That's very important because at a time during that negotiation, emotions can take over if you let them and things can go sour, but that never was the case.
Q. Have you been able to nail down when you will be able to start throwing again, and have you spoken to Dr. Andrews? Can you give us a better idea of where you are?
Sure. I started throwing March 1st and that was when Dr. Andrews wanted me to start. It was ironic that we actually talked the evening after I talked to you guys and we decided to go ahead and start the program. John Mellody (Jets Head Athletic Trainer) and myself will be in touch with Dr. Andrews on a weekly basis, talking about the progress and noting the progress and things feel really good.
I think that the biggest issue for me is just continuing to get stronger and getting back my total body strength that I had even before my first surgery in 2004 (following the season). It is very important to get all of my strength back, both in my lower body and in my upper body. If I can do that, I think the throwing and the velocity and all of those questions that people have will be answered. Like I said before, time is on my side, and that's what I needed was time.
I have that time, and I want to take advantage of that time and make sure that I don't waste that time, manage the time wisely and do everything I can. My goal is to be a part of every off-season drill and team activity that we have from weight lifting and running all the way to mini-camps and spring practices. I'm well on my way to getting that accomplished.
Q. Are you throwing every day? Is it just light tosses? Can you give us an idea of what's going on there?
A normal throwing program, similar to last year, normally starts off relatively light, just lobs and throws that are around 50 percent of your maximum. And then weekly it progresses as far as your maximum, your percentage of the maximum that you use that progresses from 50 to 60 to whatever all the way throughout the program as well as the distances and yardages and the different types of throws.
That will be the process all the way up until mini-camp, so I'm kind of looking at it to give you kind of a perspective.
Last year when this process started, training camp started when mini-camp starts this year. So I had to get myself ready for training camp. I'm having that same philosophy and attitude, getting myself ready and getting to that point for mini-camp. But in the back of my mind, I still know that I have an extra month ahead of me to work out the kinks and to do the necessary things to get into shape for training camp.
Q. Did Eric at any point during this process just come right out and say, "Chad, it's an open competition." Is that the assumption you're operating under right now?
We really haven't got to that point. You know, we haven't talked about that. I think any time you have any type of coaching change, a coach is going to let the players know that he's going to put the best 11 out on the field. If I'm not one of the best 11, I don't expect Coach Mangini to put me on the field. I expect to be one of best 11 and I expect to lead this team, but that's a coaching decision that he has to make and that he has to feel comfortable with.
Any time you're a coach and my dad was a coach for 30 years, the coach has to believe in the players that he puts out there on the field because that's a definite representation of himself and what he's working toward. My goal is to create that decisiveness within Coach Mangini that he can put me out there on the field and believe in me and have no doubt that I can get the job done for him.
Q. Were you preparing yourself if you had to kind of move on? Did you think that coming back to the Jets would give you the best chance to be a starter, and was that a decision in really being eager and trying to get something done?
Well, I definitely thought that coming back to New York would give me a really good chance to be a starter in this league. It's a familiar place; I know what playing in New York is all about. I've been with the organization for six years and it's very important for me to continue what I've started. That definitely played a role in trying to remain a New York Jet, knowing that I would have a chance to compete for the starting quarterback, if that's the case. We really haven't talked about that.
Q. We were also told that Kevin Mawae has been released. Can you maybe talk about the line situation and even though Pete Kendall is only one person, having someone with that experience in front of you?
He brings a lot to the offensive line: leadership, in clutch situations, having that leadership and to have veteran experience, that's very important. So I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the challenge. And we'll miss Kevin. That's what the league is all about is sometimes players have to move on. I almost was one of those players as well that had to move on, but luckily I wasn't.
You know, Kevin will find a home because he's a very talented player and a very good player, and he's done a lot of great things for the Jets. What that does is it gives a young player a chance to step up and grab the opportunity. This league is about opportunities and it's about players having a chance to step up and affect their team in a positive way on the field and to make plays.
Q. Do you think you can still have that same leadership role, especially after hearing some of your teammates come out throughout this process and say, maybe it's best that he does move on because he's too injury-prone?
I've never looked at myself as injury-prone. I've looked at myself as maybe being injury-plagued. I've been plagued by three injuries that are very rare to the game of football and that just does not happen in the game, quite frankly. Unfortunately I've just been a part of some very bad luck, and it has not been because of a weakness in my physical strengths or my physical body. It's just been one of those things that you cannot avoid and it's totally out of your control.
Any time somebody puts a statement out there and doesn't put their name on it, I don't think you can really put much emphasis on what is said. I think that it's important that if you want to take a stand on something and stand on something that you believe, that you put your name on it. To my knowledge, that has not happened with whatever was said about me, and that's for the Jets.
I know some of my teammates that I do have great respect for, such as Laveranues Coles and Curtis Martin and some of those guys that are able to step out on the field with me any time, they know what type of player I am and they know what I can bring to the table. They were another reason why I wanted to come back and why I wanted to get this agreement done because I enjoy playing with the guys like Curtis and Laveranues and the Jonathan Vilmas and Eric Bartons, those type of guys that put it out on the line every Sunday and know what it means to be a professional and just have a big-time desire on winning. I'm looking forward to getting back in the locker room.
Really, the only way you get your teammates' confidence back is to perform well; and you can't talk about it, you have to be about it and you have to perform well. That's how I was able to earn my teammates' confidence starting in 2002. Because of these injuries, I've got to do the same thing and I know I will. As long as I can focus on my health and get healthy.
Q. Coming off two rotator cuff surgeries, there's going to be plenty of doubt about whether you can step in there and put any zip on the ball. I'm sure you've heard this ball and I'm curious at this stage of your rehabilitation where you feel you're at that way?
Yeah, absolutely. You know, before I was hurt in 2004, nobody really ever questioned my arm strength. With that being said, they know I wasn't a John Elway-type thrower, but they never questioned my arm strength. They knew I could make all of the throws, and I was very effective in what I did.
The arm strength questions only came throughout the 2004 season when no one knew that I was playing with a torn rotator cuff and torn labrum as we were going through the last stretch of the 2004 season and into the playoffs. Those are when questions and the doubt started. Then it continued as I was trying to recover from the surgery, and I feel like I was making progress every time I stepped out on the field - I just needed more time. I'm not concerned about reestablishing that or gaining that strength back.
I also know that there will be doubt, whether or not I can come back and be effective, get the zip on the ball that I need to be effective. And that's okay with me. I'm fine with that. I have tremendous faith in my ability and believe in the people that are working with me. If you're not me or one of the coaches or trainers that work with me, I would expect you to have doubt. The people that have doubt - I'll just have to play, concentrate on playing and winning games and to remove that doubt.
The perfect scenario for me would be at the end of the 2006 season that we have been very successful, possibly winning a championship and people can look back and say: "Well, Chad and the Jets have made the right decision and we don't have to worry about Chad anymore. We know he's back to his old self." That would be the perfect scenario for me and that's what I'm looking forward to happening.