Suggs, Desperate Move By Jets

By Mark Cannizzaro Head Writer
August 15th, 2006
Former Brown Lee Suggs will be no Messiah to the Jets running game/
Former Brown Lee Suggs will be no Messiah to the Jets running game/
Monday news flash: The Jets acquire Brownsí running back Lee Suggs in a trade for cornerback Derrick Strait.

Fantasy: Suggs, in a new environment, finally reaches his potential and becomes a feature back whoíll deliver 1,000 to 1,200 rushing yards this season.

Reality: Suggs is what he is _ just another guy, an average back whoís had a more lengthy injury history in his three-year NFL career than one with big rushing numbers. Suggs has only 1,048 rushing yards in his career.

Current analysis: The Jets screwed up. Since they obviously knew Curtis Martinís knee condition was worse than those outside the organization thought, how could they not have made an earlier move to help the running back position?

Shame on the Jets for not being more proactive in this case. By not making an earlier move at running back, the Jets backed themselves into a corner and now end up with a lower-tier player when, had they addressed the issue earlier, they might have been able to acquire a much better player.

The longer training camp wore on with Martin still mysteriously on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the more it became obvious to everyone around the league that Martinís knee is not right.

That, of course, took away any bargaining power the Jets might have had with another team in an effort to acquire a running back better than Suggs.

The Suggs move, really, seems more about adding some depth to the position, because itís difficult to believe, based on his career to date, that heís any better than what the Jets already have.

Can Suggs be that much better than Derrick Blaylock, Cedric Houston and rookie Leon Washington?

Maybe a change of scenery and staying healthy for a change will jump-start Suggsí career. Thatís surely what the Jets are hoping.

Suggs, a 6-foot, 213-pounder, appeared in only seven games as a rookie because of a shoulder injury he sustained at Virginia Tech. In his final game that season, he ran for 186 yards and two touchdowns, and that provided a tease of things the Browns hoped would come.

Suggs won the starting job in training camp in 2004, but hurt his neck in the final preseason game and was inactive for the first three games of the regular season.

He ended up playing in seven games before missing three more with a toe injury and finished the 2004 season with 744 yards and two touchdowns.

Last season, Suggs hurt his ankle during the preseason and missed Cleveland's first two games. He dressed in Weeks 3 and 4 but injured his thumb and was inactive for six weeks.

So you get the idea of how his career has gone.

Will it make a turn for the better in a Jetsí uniform?

The Jets surely hope so considering the fact that, with every day that passes with Martin still on PUP it becomes closer to reality that the Jets cannot count on Martin this year _ or maybe ever again.

Martin underwent surgery on his right knee in December, and has yet to recover fully despite the fact that the surgery wasnít performed on ligaments.

The team has been extremely closed-mouthed about Martinís status and, based on two interviews with Martin this summer, itís clear heís been given stern marching orders not to reveal a thing.

That, however, is the way Eric Mangini and his program handles things so we live with his questionable micromanagement policies.

The shame is that Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum didnít think far enough ahead to address what has now become a potential mess at the running back position, which produced 44 yards on 16 carries in the preseason opener.


The clandestine way Mangini has opted to conduct business with the Jets backfired on him the other night with regard to Chad Pennington.

Why couldnít Mangini, Pennington or someone from the public relations staff inform the 10 or so media members who were sweating out deadline early Saturday morning in Tampa of what was going on?

By having everyone either hiding or secretly scurrying around, the entire operation caused the rampant speculation about whether Pennington had injured himself in the game.

Hereís now it went down.

When we walked into the locker room, Pennington was standing in the middle of the room joking with a couple of teammates. As I walked past him, we patted each other on the back as mutual friendly gestures.

We didnít immediately try to interview Pennington because he was still in uniform and after every Jets game, home and away, the public relations staff brings Pennington into a separate area to be interviewed, usually after heís showered and dressed.

So, as reporters conducted interviews with other players, Pennington disappeared from the locker room, though his clothes were still in his locker.

One of the PR officials, told reporters that for this game we would interview Pennington at his locker when he reappeared from the showers.

Finally, with almost every player having departed from the locker room to the team buses, an equipment manager went to Penningtonís locker, gathered up his clothes and disappeared behind the closed doors to the trainerís room.

At that point, inexplicably, there wasnít a single public relations official in the locker room and explain what was going on, nor could anyone find one upon searching the hallways to the stadium.

Now, I ask this: What exactly are we supposed to think as all of these abnormal exercises are taking place right under our noses with no explanations?

Iíve been covering the NFL for more than 20 years and when someone comes into the locker room after a game, gathers the playerís clothes and disappears into the trainerís room it almost always means that player is hurt and isnít returning to the locker room.

Finally, after some 35 minutes of confusion, the PR official reappeared, then disappeared into the trainerís room for another 10 minutes or so and then Pennington came out to talk.

He, of course, insisted he didnít re-injure the shoulder. He said he was merely looking over the game book.

For 40 minutes?

Why couldnít Pennington just tell the truth about what the delay was about? What harm would it have been for him to say, ďSorry guys, I was just going over some game stuff with coach Mangini?íí

Of course, the way the Jets are now trained to virtually lie about injuries, that led some to speculate that Pennington and the team were, indeed, hiding something _ particularly following the ridiculous histrionics that had taken place.

The good news is that Mangini actually explained that he was the reason for Penningtonís mysterious delay, but that news didnít come about until Sunday, because Mangini didnít make himself available for even a short interview on Sunday, the day after the game.

"Chad's fine," Mangini said Sunday. "This was my first go-round. Right after the game I wanted to talk to Chad, get feedback while it was fresh in his mind, fresh in my mind. He was late talking to (the press), and the buses left later, but I wanted to ... talk through that stuff. It was important we do it at that point."

Pennington, when asked why he didnít tell the actual truth, said, "I said I wasn't getting treatment and I was being honest: I wasn't getting treatment. I didn't mention what was going on because it was a private conversation and I was going to let coach handle that before I stepped out of my bounds. We were talking about the game, it being his first as coach and my first playing under him."

The problem with the way that this clandestine way the team goes about things is it makes everyone paranoid and left to wonder what the truth really is.


The good news is that, after all this unnecessary dancing on egg shells, Pennington appears just fine _ in fact bolstered by the way he came through being knocked around a bit during the game.

"This proves my shoulder can take those type of hits," Pennington said. "I didn't know what to expect. I didn't know if I would come out and be sore, but I wanted to come out here and practice and see. And everything worked out well. (I took) a step forward as far as being able to prove my durability."

He, too, is building a good chemistry with Mangini.

"He's very detailed," Pennington said. "He'll bring stuff up from five days ago that you'd forgotten about. Sometimes it's good to remember those things as a player, and sometimes it's not.

"He just does a great job of teaching off of mistakes. I believe it's one of his strong points. I've learned a lot off of the mistakes I've made during camp, and being able to address those things and not repeat those things."

Jetsí fullback B.J. Askew, for one, was encouraged by what he saw of Pennington.

"It says he's all right," Askew said of the game. "A lot of people have been questioning, 'Is Chad going to be OK?' Well, you've seen him take some hits, you've seen him throw the ball. The rest is up to whatever you want to get out of it."


Even though Pennington has the starting job all but locked up, look for Mangini to shake up the rotation Saturday in Washington to give Patrick Ramsey, the former Redskin, his chance with the first-team offense.

Brooks Bollinger, who was the only quarterback not to play in Tampa, will also get a look. Look for Pennington to perhaps start the second half.

"I'll be familiar with the place, but I don't have any ill will toward that team,íí Ramsey said of Washington. ďI want to go out there, do well and execute our offense. And for no other reason than that do I want to play well this week."

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