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Quarterbacks MIA
By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com, Staff Writer
January 12th, 2005
As the New York Jets prepare for their Divisional Playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers this Saturday, a vital piece to their offense was absent from practice today. Starting QB Chad Pennington was sent home and excused from today’s team workout due to a stomach flu, according to coach Herm Edwards.

As the New York Jets prepare for their Divisional Playoff game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers this Saturday, a vital piece to their offense was absent from practice today. Starting QB Chad Pennington was sent home and excused from today’s team workout due to a stomach flu, according to coach Herm Edwards.

“He called me last night and told me (of his illness),” Edwards said. “He was pale. He’s usually pale and I joke to him that he needs to get a tan, but he looked like someone stole his best friend. So I sent him home.”

Although Pennington missed the heaviest practice day, he is expected to be ready to play in Saturday’s playoff game, according to Edwards.

Additionally, the club was also without the services of backup QB Quincy Carter, who was excused from today’s session due to personal reasons. With both top quarterbacks sidelined, seldom-used QBs Brooks Bollinger and Ricky Ray saw extended practice reps today. Edwards announced that Bollinger would serve as the team’s backup quarterback for Saturday’s game.

While the quarterback shuffle was certainly the topic of discussion, the Jets talked about their mindset and preparation going into Saturday’s match up with Pittsburgh. Edwards emphasized how a playoff atmosphere significantly increases the intensity between two teams.

“The game is much faster, errors are more glaring and opportunities are less because you’re playing against good football teams,” Edwards said. “It’s down to eight (teams). It gets tighter. The competition is much more fierce.”

While playoff games hold greater magnitude, Edwards stressed continuity for his club to be successful.

“You’re not going to change your game plan,” Edwards said. “You can maybe make some subtle changes, but if you start changing, you lose the players. The players like doing the same thing. They are conditioned that way. If there are (too many) changes, the players see the coach as scared.”

That will likely result in a ground game assault as NFL leading rusher RB Curtis Martin and RB LaMont Jordan are expected to carry a heavy workload versus a physical Steelers’ defense. With the frigid weather expected in Pittsburgh at gametime, Edwards hinted that rushing the ball is a key component for success.

“If you can run the ball, you have a chance,” Edwards said. “No matter what the weather is, you know you can run the ball.”

Martin expressed confidence in the Jets’ ground game despite playing against the No. 1 rush defense.

“It is tough and we know that, but that is what we are up against and that is the challenge we have to face,” Martin said. “That is what we are preparing for. I just believe we will do better than we did last time (vs. Pittsburgh).”

The Steelers will likely possess a similar mentality on offense as they look to feature RBs Duce Staley and Jerome Bettis to wear down the Jets’ defense. Handing the ball off to this bruising duo will be rookie sensation QB Ben Roethlisberger, who is 13-0 as the team’s starter this season. Roethlisberger, who has been hampered by bruised ribs in recentl weeks, is expected to start the game. Edwards noted how important it is for the Jets’ defense to take their shots, albeit clean, on the opposing QB in the playoffs.

“You need to knock the quarterback down,” Edwards said. “I like to see the QB get knocked down, to be honest. I don’t believe in fouling the quarterback. You don’t hit him in the head or knee, but you can’t let him play seven-on-seven back there. You have to make him feel uncomfortable.”

During last week’s wild-card game, LB Eric Barton had a big miscue by throwing his elbow into the helmet of Chargers QB Drew Brees, resulting in a costly infraction. Edwards addressed the issue of penalties with his team to week and how limiting them will give the team a greater chance to earn a victory against the Steelers this week.

“You cause foolish fouls, you’re not going to win,” Edwards explained. “You can’t do that in playoffs, can’t give them a second chance. We can’t do that against (the Steelers). They’re 15-1 for a reason.”

DT Dewayne Robertson seemed unfazed about the team’s discipline heading into Saturday’s battle after 12 infractions in their first meeting with Pittsburgh.

(Coach Edwards) talks to us about being disciplined, but we are not even worried about the flags or anything like that. We are just going to play hard, if they throw a flag, they throw a flag.”

MISCELLANEOUS TIDBITS: As mentioned previously, Bollinger is expected to serve as the team’s No. 2 QB this week. Carter is dealing with a family illness and is status is uncertain for Saturday’s game.

INJURY REPORT: Pennington (stomach flu) and Carter (personal) both missed practice today. Pennington, who is officially listed as probable, is expected to start Saturday’s game. Edwards noted that Carter’s mother has been ill and that was by her side. DE John Abraham (knee) did some light work during today’s practice, but remains questionable for the Steelers game. Edwards stressed that if Abraham were not 100% by Saturday, he would not activate the pass-rushing end. Abraham will be a game-time decision. DT Dewayne Robertson was added to this week’s injury report as probable due to a bruised knee. Here is the complete list of injuries for this week.

-DE John Abraham (knee): Questionable
-LB Kenyatta Wright (foot): Questionable
-QB Chad Pennington (illness): Probable
-DT Dewayne Robertson (knee): Probable

The team will resume practice tomorrow before departing for Pittsburgh. Check back often to Jets Insider.com for all the team’s latest news and reports as the Jets prepare for their AFC Divisional Playoff game with the Steelers!