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Pennington eager for 1st hit


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Pennington eager for first hit

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Since it's already a done deal that Chad Pennington will be the Jets' starting quarterback on Opening Day, the only question that remains is whether or not he can take a hit on his twice surgically repaired right shoulder.

The answer to that question may be learned tomorrow night when the Jets play their preseason opener at Tampa Bay. But nothing is certain with coach Eric Mangini, who hasn't announced his quarterback rotation, and he may just decide to hold Pennington out of the game.

If Pennington does play, he says he can't wait for that first hit.

"You don't invite that but if it happens, you're looking forward to how your body responds and, mentally, how you respond to it," Pennington said yesterday after a two-hour, 40-minute marathon morning practice at Hofstra. "You want to see how your hard work has paid off as far as being able to take hits. Really, last year I was able to take hits as well, it's just the one hit I took, you don't ever see that. Even with healthy quarterbacks, you can't really survive that one."

In a Week 3 game against Jacksonville last season, Pennington was hit by Jaguars defensive end Paul Spicer as he ****ed back to throw a pass and had just started his throwing motion.

Asked yesterday if one of his offensive linemen misses a block against the Bucs and he gets nailed, will he tell him, "Thanks, I needed that," Pennington broke into a huge, 100-watt grin.

"I don't think I'll thank him, but I'll be happy when I get back up," Pennington said.

These are happy days for Pennington, who has so far defied the odds and is making what appears to be an amazing comeback from his second rotator cuff surgery in as many seasons. His recovery has many in the organization stunned.

"Some people are surprised that I've lasted this long, been able to compete in every practice and not have any setbacks," Pennington said. "I'm not surprised but I'm happy about it.... To me, though, the bottom line is always going to be about performance.... if we win or lose."

Leading up to training camp, Pennington told anyone who would listen that he rushed back from his first rotator cuff surgery after six months, and he simply wasn't ready.

This time, Pennington had 10 months from the surgery until the start of training camp.

"It shows what time and repetition does for you," he said. "It shows you what a difference the four months makes."

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