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Be Patient With Pennington

By Mark Cannizzaro
Jets Insider.com Head Writer
August 5th, 2005
Jets QB Chad Pennington has not looked sharp his first week of practice but everyone needs to be patient. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Jets QB Chad Pennington has not looked sharp his first week of practice but everyone needs to be patient. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Is Chad Pennington working his way back to playing condition this summer or has he been manning the current NASA shuttle mission up in space?

Has Pennington been trying to get back in sync with his receivers and build the strength in his surgically-repaired right shoulder or was he the guy that was floating in the weightlessness of outer space repairing the shuttle cabin?

Pennington is playing football. Too many of us amongst reporters and columnists and fans are scrutinizing Pennington as if he were coming off delicate brain surgery.

What Pennington is trying to accomplish this summer is neither rocket science nor brain surgery.

There's nothing wrong with watching Pennington closely and monitoring his progress. But we should all back off a little bit on the over-analysis.

I had a close friend of mine, who happens to be a rabid Jets fan and long-time season ticket holder, leave a message on my cell phone the other day telling me that he'd just watched some clips of Jets practice on the NFL Network and, from that, he determined that Pennington's arm isn't the same as it was, that he looked poor throwing the ball.

With that, my friend made this prediction: Jay Fiedler, the backup quarterback, "will play at least five games this season.''

Can we please off with the mass hysteria with regard to Pennington's progress?

Let's at least wait until some preseason games before we paralyze ourselves with over-analysis coming from training camp practices.

"I feel much better,'' Pennington said after Thursday night's practice, which came after he was given Wednesday off from throwing, his first non-throwing day of this camp. "I'm trying to work through some things. It's a work in progress and just a matter of time.

"The biggest thing is that you cannot get frustrated. You have to keep working and feel comfortable with making the right reads and eventually the throws will come and all the kinks will get worked out. After you work five days in a row, it's probably smart to take a day off. You have to train hard, but you have to train smart.''

It's true, Pennington hasn't looked particularly good throwing the ball down the field. He and Laveranues Coles have yet to connect with any kind of consistency. But it is early in training camp. The first preseason game is still days away.

"I'm getting there,'' Pennington insisted. "I'm not satisfied by any means. Sometimes I have what I want and sometimes I don't. It's just a matter of time and I'm not going to get frustrated. I could have gotten frustrated a long time ago when I could barely move my arm. I think it's a matter of time, and as we keep working, and I keep looking forward, I think I'll finally get to where I want to.''

Pennington has always been more a gamer than a practice player. That's always a better way to be than the other way around.

In golf, there are times when you're killing the ball on the practice range and then you get onto the real course and can't hit the ball into the ocean. Same in tennis. Sometimes while warming up you're pounding the ball and then when the match begins you can't keep the ball in the court.

You rather Pennington not be a practice-range or back-court hero. You'd rather him stink it up on the practice field during the week and throw his touchdown passes on Sundays.

One of the best points Pennington made prior to camp came when he said playing the end of last season with a tear in his rotator cuff gave him confidence knowing that, with a repaired torn rotator cuff, his shoulder would be even stronger.

As we analyze Pennington's so-so performance in training camp practices, let's remember three things. First, one a week of practices have passed. Second, he missed all of the OTAs in the spring and hasn't thrown since the playoff loss to the Steelers. And third, he's playing in a new offense.

"With a new offense, you're going to make mistakes, you're going to do some things wrong, but what you can control is how you compete and how fast you play,'' Pennington said. "That's what we have to do as an offense. We have to set the tempo if we're going to be the best offense in the league. There's a standard that we want to set as an offense and we have to hold ourselves to that standard.''

Give Pennington some time before panicking. Let's watch some preseason games and then begin judging.

INSIDER EXTRA POINTS

Is 87 Loosening Up?
Laveranues Coles, who's always had a prickly relationship with reporters, offered a bit of a thaw what looked like it was heading toward a cold war when he acquiesced to some urging by the media relations staff and conducted an interview last week.

Coles was terrific in the interview, even offering up a funny, engaging anecdote about his first impression of Wayne Chrebet, when he admitted to calling his mom and telling her he'd be "starting within a week.''

Hopefully, Coles found that session painless enough that he'll continues to cooperate with reporters and columnist, because we are the only conduit to the readers, conveying what the players have to say to the general public.

Coles is a highly popular player in the locker room and he's a terrific player. It would be a shame if he were to boycott talking to reporters. So hopefully, last week was not an aberration but a sign of things to come.

Law Watch Continues.
Don't be too impatient regarding when Ty Law might become a Jet. It's probably going to take a little bit of time _ at least after the first preseason game or even two.

Miller Impresses Week 1
It's been fun watching rookie cornerback Justin Miller practice for the last week. He makes neatly one interception per practice and these aren't hospital-pass picks.

Miller has picked some of the team's best receivers clean on the run with tight coverage, great speed and athletic ability and ball skills.

He, too, will be surely fun to watch returning punts and kickoffs.

Herman Edwards has said he plans to feed Miller all he can eat. So far, Miller has been digesting everything pretty impressively.

"I think that's a part of learning,'' Miller said. "You're going to have to put a lot on someone to see how much they can handle. I just try to take in as much as possible each day and try to learn something new. I've been going through a lot. You're going to have high points and low points. You just have to be focused at all times and be prepared to work each day.''

Legree looks to fill the Ferguson void.
One of the Jets' most pressing questions is how they'll replace nose tackle Jason Ferguson, who left in the offseason as a free agent to sign with Dallas.

Jets' second-year linebacker Jonathan Vilma, for one, has been impressed with Lance Legree, who was signed with the Jets as a free agent from the Giants.

"He is doing a great job holding it up,'' Vilma said. "The Giants taught him well. He's been one of those sleepers. He's doing a great job for us and nobody really talks about him much, but we notice. Linebackers know what a great job he's doing.''

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