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Football notes

Still set on leading Jets

Pennington not ready to hand off to Clemens

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Mike Reiss
Globe Staff / July 20, 2008

When his playing career is over, Chad Pennington isn't planning to put his journalism degree from Marshall University to good use. He might consider coaching high school football - he's a "Friday Night Lights" guy - and the way he worked the room at Randy Moss's recent charity golf tournament in Charleston, W.Va., a career in politics seems like a natural fit, too.

But for now, Pennington has more pressing concerns, first and foremost saving his job as starting quarterback with the New York Jets.

Spend a few minutes chatting up Pennington and it's easy to appreciate how he's approaching this latest chapter in his career.

At 32, he's smart enough to realize that if the plans of general manager Mike Tannenbaum and coach Eric Mangini unfold as they hope, Pennington will be watching from the sideline this season, replaced by 2006 second-round draft pick Kellen Clemens.

While the Jets have termed the Pennington/Clemens competition open - the team split first-team repetitions 50-50 in the offseason - Pennington knows that "even" won't be good enough to retain the job. He'll need to outperform Clemens, a player the Jets obviously want to see succeed after selecting him as the quarterback of the future (49th overall).

"Competition isn't anything new for me, and this is one of those things that Coach Mangini feels is necessary, so I have to react accordingly and react like a professional should," Pennington said, pointing out that he was in a similar situation in 2006 with Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger, and Clemens. "It's certainly competitive, it's intense, but at the same time it's professional."

Pennington feels he's had one of his best offseasons. He said he underwent a thorough self-analysis and breakdown of his mechanics in hopes of gaining more consistency with his passing velocity, which has long been a knock on his game. He added that his throwing shoulder, also a frequent topic of discussion since he underwent multiple surgeries before winning the Comeback Player of the Year award in 2006, feels strong.

Primarily because he's gone wire to wire as a starter only once in his career, arm strength and durability often dominate the discussion when it comes to Pennington. Yet not to be overlooked is his intelligence, accuracy (65.6 percent career passer), and command of the huddle, three other key attributes for any signal-caller.

Pennington's leadership is also evident in how he has interacted with Clemens, avoiding the awkwardness that can come when two players are competing for one high-profile job.

"It can be a distraction and tough to deal with if you don't know how to handle it as professionals," Pennington said. "With me being the veteran, I feel like I have to set the example. You can't let the criticisms or the comparisons get between our relationship, while at the same time I have to do everything I can to better myself.

"If Kellen asks me a question or wants to know my opinion on something, I'm truthful with him and give him the best opinion I can. That's what professionalism is all about. My goal is to never fall into immature games where you're getting emotional about it and not handling the situation right. I always try to be a professional and you let the chips fall where they may."

One aspect potentially working in Pennington's favor is the Jets' aggressive offseason approach.

While recent history indicates that teams can flirt with trouble by spending big money on the 30-year-old circuit in free agency and in trade acquisitions, the Jets opened the vault to beef up at the line of scrimmage with perennial Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca (31), right tackle Damien Woody (30), and nose tackle Kris Jenkins (29 in August).

In that case, is the team willing to live with some of the on-the-job growing pains that would inevitably come with Clemens under center? Or is Pennington, a proven leader and the centerpiece of the all-important communication that must take place on the field, the better match?

The Jets have their first training camp practice Thursday, which will mark the first step in providing some answers.

Presenter accounted for

Andre Tippett on why he has chosen Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft to be his presenter during Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremonies Aug. 2:

"Robert and I have shared a lot of special moments together, probably moreso than most people realize. Obviously, we've played a lot of golf over the years, and we've shared some very intimate things that I've been honored to be part of with him. Here's another one of those opportunities. He's had a lot of experience over the last eight years with championships, but he hasn't had the experience of being in Canton, at the Hall of Fame, introducing a player for enshrinement. I thought he deserves that experience, to be a part of that.

"It definitely wasn't a hard decision to make. Over my last 15, 16 years of being here, and being part of the organization, and everything that has happened here - the whole evolution of the Patriots organization - I thought it would be a fitting honor to have Robert presenting me. The Super Bowls, building a new stadium, and here is a guy who stepped up, put himself on the line, and was committed to making something happen here as an owner to get the right players in, and to get the right coaching staff here.

"I know I was proud to play for the organization, and I now have 26 years here. I'm vested in this place, just like the next fan. I think all of us, as past players, are very honored and appreciative of him taking this team and making it a model to follow in professional sports."

Speak up

"I have a degree in journalism, but being in New York City for eight years, I think I've decided against that."

Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, in a light moment, speaking of his future plans to a crowd at Randy Moss's charity golf tournament in West Virginia.

The list

Training camp is a time for teams to establish the type of physical and mental discipline necessary to avoid costly penalties during the regular season. A look at the top 10 and bottom 10 teams flagged for accepted penalties during the 2007 season:

Least penalized

Seattle — 59

NY Jets — 63

Indianapolis — 67

New Orleans — 68

Jacksonville — 76

NY Giants — 77

Buffalo — 78

New England — 78

Pittsburgh — 80

Tampa Bay — 81

Most penalized

Arizona — 137

Oakland — 120

Cleveland — 114

Green Bay — 113

Chicago — 111

Baltimore — 107

Atlanta — 105

Dallas — 104

Kansas City — 101

Tennessee — 101

By the numbers

1
Number of plays Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has missed over his 10-year NFL career because of injury. The play occurred Nov. 11, 2001, against the Dolphins, when Manning fractured his jaw.

12
Starting quarterbacks for the Dolphins since Dan Marino retired after the 1999 season. If free agent signee Josh McCown or rookie Chad Henne earns the starting job this year, he'd become the 13th.

80
Maximum number of players allowed on training camp rosters, which is down from a maximum of 86 and could lead teams to shorten practices and two-a-day sessions in order to keep veterans from being overworked.

Etc.

Hobbled Colt
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning had an infected bursa sac removed from his left knee last Monday, and a statement issued by the team indicated that the procedure was routine. Colts officials expect Manning - who had been receiving conservative treatment from the club since February - to return to action in 4-6 weeks, so Manning doesn't appear to be in jeopardy for the season opener Sept. 7 against the Bears.

How can a bursa sac affect a quarterback?
According to Dr. Diane English, the orthopedic surgeon for Boston College athletics, the purpose of the bursa sac is to act as a cushion for the kneecap, and it is attached to the quadriceps muscle. Inflammation and/or infection would affect a quarterback not only during games, but also conditioning-wise in the form of running and jumping.

"There would be two reasons to have it removed," explained English, who stressed that she had not examined Manning. "The first would be that it had given him problems so long that it bothered him when he worked out. The second is that by getting infected it could spread to other areas, specifically the underlying knee."

So in the end, it appears the Colts will have Manning under center when the real games start, but the more pressing concern is likely to be his conditioning level in the first few weeks of the regular season.

Staying put, for now
Two months ago at the NFL's spring meeting in Atlanta, commissioner Roger Goodell indicated that the draft could be hitting the road from year to year, instead of being held annually in New York. He also acknowledged that Los Angeles was a possibility as a host. Yet while Goodell said such changes could go into effect for 2009, the league has since decided to keep the draft in New York for at least one more year. The draft will also remain a Saturday-Sunday affair for 2009, contrary to speculation that it could potentially start on a Friday night.

Signs of the times
It's nitty-gritty stuff behind the scenes in contract negotiations - not the type of Favre-like sizzle that can create headlines for three weeks - but it's worth noting that some teams are expressing concerns with signing draft choices because of the unsettled labor situation. Boiled down, the issue comes to the guaranteed money in the final year of contracts, which potentially could come in a year without a salary cap. The NFL has rejected some contracts because of the way they were structured, such as the 49ers' deal last week with Southern Cal guard Chilo Rachal, a second-round pick. According to one agent familiar with the situation, a special master was scheduled to hear a case on the overall issue and a quick ruling was expected with most teams starting training camp this week.

Standing watch
How has Celtics forward Paul Pierce changed the way the NFL does business? As reported by the Los Angeles Times last week, the league plans to monitor players to ensure they aren't flashing hand signals of street gangs on the field. "The Paul Pierce thing is what brought it to light," director of officiating Mike Pereira told the Times. "When he was fined . . . that's when we said we need to take a look at it and see if we need to be aware of it." Pierce was docked $25,000 by the NBA after flashing a hand gesture - which some believed was a gang sign - toward the Atlanta Hawks' bench in Game 3 of the teams' first-round playoff series.

Too close for comfort
From afar, the Packers' filing of tampering charges against the Vikings regarding Brett Favre sounds a lot like the 2006 charges the Patriots filed against the Jets with receiver Deion Branch. The Patriots and Jets met in Week 2 that season and the Branch situation contributed to the bad-blood hype of that game - which was Eric Mangini's first against the Patriots as a head coach. In this case, the Packers open the season hosting . . . who else? the Vikings - on ESPN Monday night. Aaron Rodgers's starting debut alone made the game attractive, but now - with the added wrinkle of tampering charges - the battle of NFC North foes looks like the must-see game of the opening week.

At the head in class
Longtime Redskins cornerback Darrell Green said he was surprised to receive a call from Panthers receiver Steve Smith after Green was named in February as one of the inductees for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Green reflected on the conversation during a conference call last week. "He said, 'You know, I just admire what you've done.' I was so impressed about that. It [showed] me his character and a guy who is thinking outside the box and not thinking that he knows everything and that he's God's gift. That's class to me, real class."

Extra points
The Bills open training camp Friday and one of the top story lines is whether left tackle Jason Peters will be present. The 26-year-old Peters, who was voted a Pro Bowl starter in 2007, has remained away from the team this offseason in hopes of a new contract . . . A nice story out of St. Louis, where Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover - who is entering his 13th NFL season - finally received his college diploma from San Diego State. Glover had been about two semesters shy credits-wise when he left campus in 1996, but returned to campus during offseasons. Now 34, he said it was important to earn the degree as an example to his three children . . . Browns general manager Phil Savage, speaking on his weekly radio show in Cleveland, said No. 3 receiver Joe Jurevicius (50 catches in 2007) will probably open the season on the physically unable to perform list because of his injured right knee. In that case, the Browns will likely look toward Joshua Cribbs, a Pro Bowl special teamer, for more contributions on offense . . . The Bears can only hope that running back Kevin Jones changes direction as well as the team's decision makers. Less than a month after coach Lovie Smith said he didn't anticipate the Bears signing a veteran back, the team inked Jones, a 2004 first-round pick, to a one-year deal. Jones, who is recovering from a knee injury, adds some insurance if second-round pick Matt Forte struggles.

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.

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