And here .... we ... go
Chad Pennington willing to return to New York Jets to backup Mark Sanchez
BY Rich Cimini
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
FORT LAUDERDALE - Chad Pennington, he of the thrice-repaired throwing shoulder, isn't ready to call it a career. The popular former Jets quarterback intends to play in 2010, even as a backup, and he's willing to consider any offer.
Even from the Jets.
While acknowledging it "would be tough" to return to the team that fired him only 19 months ago, Pennington - an unrestricted free agent in four weeks - told the Daily News Thursday he would definitely listen if GM Mike Tannenbaum called.
"I'd be crazy not to be interested," the current Dolphin said at a youth-football clinic, one of many NFL-sponsored events during Super Bowl week. "Once you think you're too big where you can't entertain every opportunity, you'd better be careful because you'll be looking from the outside in."
Pennington, who was dumped in August 2008 to make room for Brett Favre, sounded like he prefers to stay in Miami as Chad Henne's backup. But the Dolphins have remained noncommittal, so Pennington is preparing to play the free-agent game.
But the Jets? Pennington, who admitted he still gets "a little upset" on occasion when he reflects on his breakup in New York, conceded that a return would require some pride-swallowing.
"Would it be tough? Sure it would be tough, emotionally, but it's always a possibility," he said. "I never rule anything out. Absolutely."
The Jets are committed to Mark Sanchez, but Tannenbaum, in his end-of-the-season news conference, didn't dismiss the possibility of acquiring an experienced backup.
Even though Kellen Clemens won his only start in 2009, filling in when Sanchez was injured, he was underwhelming and didn't win the confidence of the organization. He also has fallen behind Sanchez in terms of experience (nine career starts to Sanchez's 18), and the team would like a seasoned backup who can be a mentor to their still-maturing franchise quarterback.
Clemens will be a restricted free agent under the current CBA, and the Jets intend to tender him at the second-round level (his draft round). But that doesn't guarantee a roster spot.
Because Pennington still is under contract to the Dolphins, the Jets aren't allowed to comment on potential interest. But Tannenbaum always has held Pennington in the highest regard. When he traded for Favre, he did Pennington a favor by releasing him instead of making a trade, giving him a chance to pick his next team - a move that backfired on the Jets. Pennington led the Dolphins to the AFC East title in 2008.
The big question, as always, is Pennington's health. He suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 3, requiring arthroscopic surgery for the second time. It also was scoped in 2005, which followed major surgery on his rotator cuff in 2004. He never had the strongest arm, and the cumulative effect of three operations raises serious questions.
This time there was no rotator cuff damage and Pennington, who admitted he considered retiring after the injury, is encouraged by his chances of a full recovery.
"I'm not totally where I want to be, but I can see the progress," said Pennington, who turns 34 in June.
Pennington has been throwing for about five weeks, and he's up to three days a week. His goal is to be 100% by the start of free agency, so he can audition for interested teams. One intriguing possibility is the Cardinals, who lost Kurt Warner to retirement and don't seem convinced that Matt Leinart can do the job.
No team is going to hand Pennington a starting spot, and he's okay with that.
"There's always flexibility and I think there's always a need for good quarterback play in this league," he said. "There's always a need for leadership and you don't necessarily have to lead from a starter's role."
But, again, the Jets? Pennington admitted he couldn't bring himself to root for the Jets in the AFC Championship Game.
"When you're a Dolphin," he said, "Dolphins and Jets don't go together."
ON THE LINE: The Jets have received permission to speak with Ravens assistant Mark Carrier for a position on the defensive staff, believed to be coaching the defensive line. Carrier, a former NFL safety, coaches the Baltimore secondary and worked alongside Rex Ryan with the Ravens. Jeff Weeks is the Jets' current defensive line coach after replacing Kerry Locklin, who was fired at midseason.