Kenny Chesney’s “I Go Back” blared from the loudspeakers at the beginning of this afternoon’s practice. Chad Pennington, a Knoxville, Tenn., native, will head back to his home state this weekend and could even start against the Titans at Nashville’s LP Field.
“It’s always exciting to go and play in front of some familiar faces and play in your home state,” Pennington said at a news conference this morning. “I think that’s always a fun thing for a player to do.”
Pennington began his AP Comeback Player of the Year campaign two Septembers ago in Nashville, throwing for 319 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening win over the Titans.
“It’s an extremely loud stadium, and that was on opening day,” he said. “I can only imagine how loud it’s going to be now considering they have a chance to make the playoffs.”
The message from Jets head coach Eric Mangini today was status quo regarding his QB starter for the Green & White’s road finale. Kellen Clemens, who has a rib injury, was out at practice throwing for a second day in a row.
“We’ll go through the week and see how it goes,” Mangini said.
Pennington could be in a line for his first start in close to two months. The 31-year-old has been a team player throughout a tough season, never causing any fuss about the depth chart change.
“Chad has been outstanding and he’s been extremely helpful to Kellen during this time,” Mangini said.
“I think Coach respects me as a player, he respects the things I bring to the table,” said Pennington. “We’ve had conversations about that and he’s been very adamant on how he respects how I play the game, make good decisions and understand the whole perspective of the game, not just the stats and things like that.”
Even though he has made a transition to backup, Pennington still views himself in a different light.
“I certainly feel I’m a starter, absolutely. No question in my mind,” he said. “I can always help someone win.”
On several occasions, Pennington was asked tough questions and most of them concerned his future.
“I understand the business of this game. Right now the most important thing is what we do in-between the white lines and what we do every practice to get better for this team,” he said. “When that time comes to think about all those different options, then I’ll do what I always do and be very diligent and take everything into account.”
If Pennington allows his mind to wander, the results could be disastrous.
“When you have your mind on other things and when you’re distracted, you can get hurt,” he said. “All it takes is a blink of an eye and you’re lying on your backside and it may be your fault.”
Pennington, a football coach’s son, respects the game too much to do that. He is human and has surely experienced a wide range of emotions this season, but he’s always handled everything with class.
“I have extremely enjoyed my time in New York and Jets fans have been extremely supportive,” he said. “They’re loyal, they’re passionate and they’re going to let you know how they feel and that’s part of being a fan.”
Don’t mistake that as a farewell. Important decisions will be made when the season is over but there is still football to be played. Pennington is going back to Tennessee and Clemens’ injury might put him back in the starting lineup.
“I do know that I enjoy playing, that I don’t enjoy watching,” he said. “I think that it’s just the competitive side of being a National Football League player. I enjoy being in the huddle and I enjoy taking on the challenge week in and week out.”
Tags: Chad Pennington, Eric Mangini, Kellen Clemens, LP Field, tennessee
Posted in Eric Allen | 57 Comments »