Rejuvenated Pennington Takes Charge at Jets Scrimmage

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The New York Sun

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.— When Chad Pennington walked into the Meadowlands for the Jets’ team scrimmage yesterday, he had that usual pit in his stomach. The one he gets on game days.

Everything about the day had the feel of a game, from the pregame warmup, to the national anthem, to the coin toss, to the television timeouts. The only thing missing: 80,000 screaming fans. Still, Pennington and his teammates made do just fine, playing in the empty stadium to the sound of crowd noise and music as a replacement.

That proved to be little distraction to Pennington, who showed the poise and accuracy that made him a successful quarterback before two straight shoulder operations set him back. Pennington, vying with backups Patrick Ramsey, Brooks Bollinger, and rookie Kellen Clemens for the starting job, went 12-of-14 for 117 yards with the first-team offense. His green team won the scrimmage, which lasted one half.

“It was really good for our team, there were a lot of real game situations we covered,”Pennington said.”Coming into the stadium and getting prepared was just like a game, so I think it’s going to prepare us. It’s important for us to get out here, go through this and get something out of it.”

Pennington, playing against the firstteam defense, outshined fellow green teammate Clemens, and opposing quarterbacks Ramsey and Bollinger. He sprinkled in some deeper throws with a few short ones.There was even a nice one-step drop quickie toss to Chris Baker that went for 16 yards.

His improvement each day in training camp is a testament to how hard Pennington has worked to get back from his shoulder injuries. During minicamp in June, he looked tentative and didn’t have any zip on the ball. On the first day of training camp, he had two interceptions on his first three passes.

Now he’s throwing the ball much better and looks confident. Like the Chad of old.Though Pennington said his performance wasn’t surprising, he was encouraged.

“It does show me that I’m headed in the right direction and the things I’m doing with the trainers and with the strength and conditioning coaches and what I’ve done on the field during practice has helped me,” he said. “It’s a good feeling to know, but at the same time, I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Pennington appears to have the edge at winning the job even though coach Eric Mangini has been mum on the topic of choosing a starter. Ramsey was a disappointing 4-of-9 for 33 yards, but he was playing with the second-team offense. Still, two of those passes were batted down.

Clemens went 3-of-7 for 24 yards, while Bollinger was 3-of-6 for 10 yards.

“Chad did some positive things,” Mangini said. “Any time you have a high completion rate, that’s a positive thing. It means you’re moving the chains and effectively using the clock and putting yourself in position to move the ball.That’s definitely encouraging. His presence was very good both on the field and on the sideline.”

The green team scored two field goals to one for the white to win the half scrimmage 6–3.The second part of practice was more work on situational plays. For winning, the green team got a better postgame meal — barbecue, compared to cold sandwiches for the white team. They also got to watch movies on the bus back to team headquarters in Hempstead, N.Y., while the white team got no such luxury.

Mangini went from sideline to sideline throughout the scrimmage, with the headset on, monitoring every player.The scrimmage ended a two-day stay in New Jersey, where he wanted the Jets to get the feel for a game weekend. They had an open practice for fans Saturday, then stayed at the team hotel as they would before a regular contest.

He got the idea from his days in New England, where the Patriots would practice at their home stadium during camp. Mangini felt that gave them a “real home-field advantage.” Maybe it will work for the Jets, too. Nobody was complaining.

“On the sideline, I was smiling,” veteran guard Pete Kendall said. “It’s a pretty neat deal. It was fun. It was something different for all of us, it was fun to go out there and do something like that.”

The New York Sun

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