Pennington has a lot to cheer about this season
For quarterback Chad Pennington, sixteen couldn't be sweeter. When the seventh-year veteran takes the field Sunday at the Meadowlands, he will make his 16th consecutive start – making 2006 his first completed season as a starter in the National Football League.
Pennington has played 59 games in a Jets' uniform, but his previous high for starts in a season was 13 in 2004. Injuries had set Pennington back throughout his career until now, an improbable campaign which will conclude against the Oakland Raiders. Entering the football year after two rotator surgeries in less than 12 months, many football experts didn't think he would finish the season behind center.
"Chad's view is participating in every game, doing the best he can in every game and not looking at it in terms of the personal element," said head coach Eric Mangini. "He's so competitive, he's so driven, and he's such a good leader. His goal is to finish the season and to finish the season the way that we're all looking to finish the season, which is with a win on Sunday."
Even though Pennington owns two postseason victories, this latest feat might be his most impressive accomplishment as a professional. But the quarterback is just concerned with wins and losses, and victory #10 would put the Jets in the postseason.
"No matter how many games I play, my primary focus is always winning and making sure that I'm doing everything I can to put our team in a successful position," said Pennington. "But to be able to make it through a season and persevere through a lot of difficult challenges does mean a lot, and I'm excited about the 16th challenge."
Veteran left guard Pete Kendall, who has started every game of a season five times in 11 years in the NFL, can somewhat relate to the Jets' fifth most prolific passer. The 6'5", 292-pound lineman has had his passer's back all season long, both on the field and off the field.
"I assume that this must be pretty satisfying for Chad to go from being written off almost medically to starting 16 games for the first time in his career," Kendall said. "I think that is a pretty bold statement about where he is. That is certainly leaps and bounds ahead of where the so-called experts had him."
For younger players like wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery, it's difficult to understand exactly what Pennington battled through, but it's almost impossible to fail to acknowledge the perseverance in times of adversity. Cotchery, a third-year receiver out of North Carolina State, knows the perfect gift to give Pennington for such resolve.
"None of us know what he's gone through but everyone knows the tough situation he went through," Cotchery said. "I'm quite sure it's something special from him, and we want to make sure we go out and give it our all just like the way he's been giving it his all throughout this season and his career."
In 2002, Pennington took over as the Green & White starter in the fifth game of the season and threw for two touchdowns in a 29-25 loss to Kansas City. After that first career start, he went 8-3 and even led the Jets to a 41-0 win over Indianapolis in his first career playoff game. That season – his first as a starter – would prove to be his only healthy campaign prior to '06.
Aside from his broken wrist in 2003 and shoulder surgeries following the 2004 and then again last fall, Pennington was forced to work with several different offensive coordinators. This changing offensive philosophy might have caused some uncomforting moments for Pennington, but he cannot say enough about the work coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has done this season for he and the offense.
"I've always taken pride in whatever offense is presented to me and making it work, and execute it the way our coaches want it to be executed," said Pennington, the team's Dennis Byrd Award recipient for Most Inspirational Player, earlier this week. "I have enjoyed this offense. I've enjoyed working with Brian and learning all the details of this offense and trying to explore all the different avenues, and we're definitely not where we want to be. We've got a lot more exploration to do, but I have enjoyed just going through this process."
Injury ReportJets*Questionable: FB B.J. Askew (foot), RB Kevan Barlow (thigh), CB David Barrett (hip), WR Laveranues Coles (head/jaw), CB Andre Dyson (knee), FB James Hodgins (knee), RB Cedric Houston (calf), S Kerry Rhodes (knee) & DB Eric Smith (foot)
*Probable: *LB Matt Chatham (foot), *OL Brandon Moore (back), *DL Rashad Moore (hand), *QB Chad Pennington (calf), *QB Patrick Ramsey (calf) & *DE Bryan Thomas (shoulder)
Raiders Out: RB LaMont Jordan (knee) & WR Jerry Porter (hip)
Doubtful:WR Randy Moss (ankle)
Questionable: QB Aaron Brooks (neck) & RB Zack Crockett (heel)
Probable:G Kevin Boothe (elbow),*T Robert Gallery (neck), *G Corey Hulsey (knee) & *CB Fabian Washington (shoulder)
*Denotes players who participated in practice