Pennington continued to play on after being wrapped up by Jarvis Green in week 1.
It was a horridly familiar scene early in the second half today when Chad Pennington, the Jets captain and eight-year veteran, was sacked by Patriots defensive end Jarvis Green. Green, 6'3", 285, wrapped up Pennington, plugging his right foot into the turf before twisting the quarterback's frame into a human pretzel.
Memories of Jacksonville in 2005, when Pennington's right shoulder was damaged for the second time in less than a year, began to resurface in the minds of Jets fans everywhere.
"Your first reaction is one of concern. You don't like to see a player go down and especially a friend laying there in pain," recalled backup quarterback Kellen Clemens, who replaced Pennington following the injury. "As a teammate and as a friend, you never want to see Chad down. Your first thought really is 'Is he going to be OK? How serious is it? Will he be able to walk it off?' "
Pennington didn't immediately walk it off. He rose and fell twice before finding the strength to hobble off the field on his own, slamming his helmet in aggravation and disappointment.
"Injuries are part of the game, but it's frustrating," Pennington said in his postgame news conference. "I wanted to let the doctors look at it and then get back out there. My mindset hasn't changed as far as trying to play. I'm going to do everything I can to be available."
He added that he didn't know of his availability for Sunday's game at Baltimore. "The doctors are talking a look at it," he said. "I'm sure I'll see them frequently this week and we'll see what happens."
Even though Clemens completed a pass on his only play of that series — a 6-yarder to Thomas Jones — his services were short-lived as Pennington was stretching and preparing for a return during the following series.
With his foot almost completely covered in black tape, Pennington returned to the field after the Patriots needed just 2:48 to score their fourth touchdown of the game. Even though his limp appeared to worsen after just two plays, his production, and with it the entire Jets offense, improved.
"I was just trying to rely upon my experience from the Jacksonville game, trying to stay focused," Pennington said. "Even though I felt unstable, I felt like I was seeing things well throughout the game and I could still get the ball to our playmakers. I felt like I could help my team, and we were able to go down and score."
"That says a lot about him. He's a tough guy," wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. "Just to be a part of a team that he leads, to be a teammate of his, is great. It's an honor and a pleasure just to see a guy like that continue to fight the way he does, regardless of what the circumstances are."
Led by three Pennington completions — two to tight end Chris Baker and one to Coles — the Green & White offense marched deep into New England territory. After Jones' 10-yard dash to the New England 2, the Jets staff fearlessly called for their injured quarterback to rush it and caught the tired Patriots defense offside.
"We were able to sneak it one time on third down on our first scoring drive and that was effective, and we tried to do it again," Pennington said of the call. "At that time, Coach [Mangini] was going to try to call plays to help us win. And if I'm out there, I'm saying I can run our plays."
Two plays later, Pennington hit Coles in the left corner of the endzone for the receiver's second touchdown of the day. Such fortitude by the Jets captain has been noticed by Clemens since being drafted by New York in the spring of 2006.
"His ability to get back in there hobbling around and leading that drive, it's just a testament to how tough he is and how much of a competitor he is and how much desire he has," Clemens said. "He came back from the injury, he was limping pretty good and then he leads us to a touchdown."
For Pennington, that's just who he is and what he's used to.
"I have a lot of respect for this game," said Pennington. "This game is a game that you get banged up in. You take some hits and you may have to deal with some minor things and even major things. I don't make my decision on playing looking into the future. I make my decision on the present and whether or not I can help my team at the time."