Jets QB Chad Pennington is healthy and determined to get back his starting job leading the Jets offense. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
After a brief rainstorm poured over Weeb Ewbank Hall this morning, creating sloppy conditions for the first practice of Jets training camp, overcast skies cleared for the afternoon session. With the improved weather, fans packed the bleachers to watch the Jets for their final camp on Long Island.
With word that the signing of first-round draft pick Vernon Gholston was complete, the Jets defense had an inconsistent showing as quarterbacks Chad Pennington, Erik Ainge and Brett Ratliff all were impressive in 8-on-8 and 11-on-11 drills.
After showing more zip on several passes during the morning session, Pennington surprisingly revealed that he played the entire 2007 season with two torn ligaments in his right ankle. He sustained the injury in the team’s season-opening loss to the Patriots.
“It was extremely difficult. It was an injury that I could have easily taken three weeks off," Pennington said. “If I can walk, play and function, I am going to be out there regardless and so it was tough.”
Pennington only sat one week, as Kellen Clemens started in the team’s Week Two loss at Baltimore.
Along with rehabbing the injury, Pennington has had to deal with rumors about the team’s possible interest in Brett Favre. Even though the Jets reportedly have no interest in Favre, Pennington doesn’t view the lack of interest as a vote of confidence.
“In this business, you can’t rely on votes of confidence, you’ve got to rely on yourself. It’s a business that you’re here to prove yourself every day, and it’s the organization’s job to make the team better,” he said. “If you rely on votes of confidence, you are going to be disappointed a lot of times.”
Pennington’s main competition for the starting job, Kellen Clemens, endured a poor day on the practice field. After being intercepted by linebacker Eric Barton and overthrowing several other passes during the morning session, Clemens was again inaccurate. In an 11-on-11 drill against the starting defense, Clemens lobbed a pass down the right sidelines and right into cornerback Darrelle Revis’ arms. Following the turnover, one fan screamed “Get Favre” from the stands.
Clemens, who noted that he faced a similar battle for the starting job while at Oregon with Jason Fife, explained that he feels comfortable with the competition against Pennington.
“I’m proud of the position that I find myself in, being in a position to battle with a guy of his reputation. [Chad’s] been there and he’s done it, and he’s been successful so I feel pretty good," Clemens said
Clemens also downplayed the Favre rumors.
“The Brett Favre thing, that’s kind of Brett’s deal. I don’t really have too much on that one,” he said.
After a less than stellar showing in the rain, Ainge bounced back to have a solid practice. For the first day since Ainge’s finger surgery, the rookie quarterback practiced and threw several tight spirals, including an out-route to running back Leon Washington. Ainge also hit wide receiver Paul Raymond on a sideline pattern despite tight coverage.
“It was fun, getting out here on the field. It’s a lot of fun, the atmosphere is good, we’ve just got to keep on getting better each time we get out here,” Ainge said.
While both Pennington and Ainge showed improvement in practice, Ratliff looked very impressive. His finest pass came on a go-route to Raymond, which was completed for 35 yards. The connection drew several “wows” from the crowd.
With two practices today, the Jets will be back on the field tomorrow, but only for one session. Practice will begin at 1:30 p.m.
Defensive Back Waived
Following the morning practice, the Jets waived defensive back Etienne Boulay. Boulay originally signed a reserve/future contract with the Jets on Jan. 15, after spending two seasons with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. The move essentially opened up a roster spot for Gholston.
Gholston conference call scheduled
Instead of a press conference, the team announced to the media that they have scheduled a conference call between 9:30 and 10 p.m. tonight to officially announce that linebacker Vernon Gholston has been signed. Check back for any breaking news regarding this.
Keller Receives Multiple Lessons
Early in the session, tight end Dustin Keller worked with the offensive line on blocking techniques. Keller, who was criticized by scouts because of his poor blocking while at Purdue, had a long talk with Tight Ends/Assistant Offensive Line coach Mike Devlin. In 11-on-11 drills Keller showed why his blocking abilities remain a work in progress as he was easily beat by linebacker Calvin Pace on a passing drill.
Former Jets Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff made an appearance at Jets camp today. Widely regarded as one of the best special teams coaches in football, Westhoff retired after last season because of health issues. He was spotted talking with several members of the Jets' special teams unit.
Tight end Chris Baker, who was placed on the PUP List on Monday, sat out the afternoon practice. Baker spent much of the session on the exercise bike. Joining the tight end on the sidelines were running backs Jesse Chatman and Musa Smith. Both players are listed on the Active/Non-Football Injury List.
Although it was a cool afternoon, wide reciever Laveranues Coles and defensive back Ahmad Carroll dealt with leg cramps and received treatment.
The Jets have one practice session tomorrow at 1:30. Be sure to check back to JI for a complete recap.
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