A year removed from the second reconstructive shoulder surgery of his career, quarterback Chad Pennington has finished the first complete regular season of his seven in the league and is now preparing to lead the Jets into a Wild Card showdown with the rival Patriots on Sunday. Perhaps no one in the Jets locker room, or around the NFL, has gone through more than Pennington the last two years. First, dealing with a career-threatening injury and then having to win his starting job back over veteran Patrick Ramsey and rookie Kellen Clemens. Today the Associated Press recognized his remarkable revival naming him the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.
The veteran’s statistics for the season were less than dazzling with 3352 yards on 64.5 percent passing with 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, good for a passer rating of 82.6. However, as head coach Eric Mangini has pointed out all year, Pennington is a player who brings so much more to the field than his stats reflect.
“It’s a testament to how hard he works and all the things he does not just professionally but also personally to get ready,” Mangini said of his quarterback. “He consistently worked at it like everything Chad does.”
While Pennington did admit that the award meant a lot to him personally, he remained the consummate team player.
“It does mean a lot to me because I put in a lot of hard work and there’s been a lot of people who have worked hard with me,” the veteran said of his road back. “To me it’s a group award.”
The AP also acknowledged kicker Mike Nugent’s improvement since a rough Week 1 performance by naming him the Special Teams Player of the Month for December. Since missing two field goals in the season opener in Tennessee, Nugent has missed just one kick, a 52-yard attempt in Cleveland, and has hit his last 18 attempts.
“A lot of times we all go through tough times whether it’s a bad call or a bad decision,” Mangini said. “It’s how do you respond, and Mike responded the right way. He went back to work and corrected what he was doing wrong.”
Despite all the recognition and appreciation, Mangini’s five second rule was in full effect as the Jets quickly turned their attention to the practice field for their normal Thursday routine, including third down preparation. Even with a packed media room and flashbulbs constantly popping, the Jets focus remains. Nothing is more important at Weeb Ewbank Hall this week than finding a way to win on Sunday.
As Mangini noted, individual awards mean nothing without team success.
-Wide receiver Laveranues Coles enjoyed Pennington’s accolades as much as anyone but believes the veteran signal caller needs something more.
“I don’t think it’s enough,” Coles said. “No one knows what he went through off the field and on the field, with all the contractual stuff and the competition. There should be more to come.”
-Mangini still refused to acknowledge a strained relationship with former mentor Bill Belichick. Mangini said he still considers Belichick a friend and saw nothing wrong with the post-game handshakes between the two.
“We do self-study after every week and that’s not something we look at much but I thought it was good,” Mangini joked. “My father told me it was important to have a good handshake and that’s something I try to follow through on, you know, nice firm grip.”
-Nugent is as confident as ever as he prepares for his postseason debut this Sunday. The second-year kicker said he has never had as much confidence in a unit as he does in himself, long-snapper James Dearth, and holder Ben Graham.
-Mangini said there is still a chance cornerback Andre Dyson could play against New England despite a leg injury. Dyson participated in practice today.
New York Jets
-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Thigh): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-WR Laveranues Coles (Jaw): Questionable
-CB Andre Dyson (Knee): Questionable
-FB James Hodgins (Knee): Questionable
-C Nick Mangold: (Thigh): Questionable
-OL Brandon Moore (Ankle): Questionable
-S Kerry Rhodes (Knee): Questionable
-DL Dewayne Robertson (Knee): Questionable
-LB Matt Chatham (Personal): Probable
-RB Cedric Houston (Calf): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-DB Eric Smith (Foot): Probable
-DE Bryan Thomas (Shoulder): Probable
The team has their regular Friday walk-through tomorrow. Be sure to check back to Jets Insider.com for a full game preview!