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Chad scare is a throwback

Injury would mean another QB scramble


DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER If anyone wonders why the Jets decided to go into training camp with four viable quarterbacks on the roster, the reasons were hammered home Friday night in Tampa. The sight of a still-mending Jay Fiedler on the Bucs' sideline was a reminder of last year's quarterback calamity, when the Jets' then-backup and Chad Pennington suffered season-ending shoulder injuries in the same game - a double whammy that effectively ruined their hopes.

Then, early in the second quarter of the preseason opener Friday, Pennington's twice-repaired shoulder was subjected to its first stress test, an arm-yanking sack by safety Kalvin Pearson. The play, eerily reminiscent to the hit that sent Pennington into surgery last October, sent shivers through the organization.

Pennington is expected to practice today, although there was no official word yesterday on how much throwing he will do. Eric Mangini, eschewing the traditional day-after news conference, was unavailable for comment. If Pennington assumes his usual workload - it appeared after the game that he may have reinjured his shoulder - the Jets will have dodged potential disaster.

Get used to the feeling. Considering Pennington's history, the Jets are going to be dealing with more pins and needles than an acupuncturist. But they can take some comfort in knowing they go four deep, with rookie Kellen Clemens showing in his debut that he's capable of pushing Patrick Ramsey and Brooks Bollinger for the backup job.

Clemens (10-for-14, 92 yards), who replaced Pennington and led a 10-play, two-minute drill at the end of the half that culminated in a field goal, received positive reviews.

"He actually came into the huddle like he had been there before," said Jerricho Cotchery, who hauled in a 19-yard pass from Clemens to jump-start the drive. "He must have taken some relaxation pills before the game because he was pretty poised when he came in."

Clemens is a naturally cool customer, a big reason why the Jets chose him in the second round. He did make one or two mental errors, according to Mangini, but he showed moxie and good arm strength.

"I was pleased with Kellen," said Mangini, who gave Clemens a golden chance by letting him play with virtually the entire starting unit for two series.

Pennington has a stranglehold on the starting job - assuming he's healthy - but there's a battle brewing for No. 2. Ramsey, thought to be the pre-camp favorite, has disappointed. He replaced Clemens for mop-up duty, never really getting a chance to prove himself.

Presumably, Ramsey (2-for-3, 9 yards) will get a better shot Saturday against his former team, the Redskins. Bollinger didn't play against the Bucs, but his status received a boost, thanks to the Pennington scare. Bollinger could make the team as a second veteran insurance policy, a luxury the Jets did not have last season when Pennington and Fiedler went down.

Pennington (9-for-14, 54 yards) was nondescript in his highly anticipated return, attempting only one pass downfield, an incompletion. He was encouraged by the way he handled the Pearson hit, although there were indications he might have tweaked his shoulder.

Perhaps trying to hide an ailment, Pennington chose to dress in the trainer's room, off limits to the media. He also took an unusually long time, 45 minutes, before emerging and answering questions from reporters. Even if he didn't reinjure his shoulder, it seems likely that he required some sort of medical attention.

But say this for Pennington: It didn't affect his confidence. For the first time all summer, he talked like a starting quarterback.

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