Pennington recovering from surgery

Updated: June 29, 2005, 12:01 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Still recovering from February surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff, New York Jets quarterback Chad Pennington termed the rehabilitation the "biggest challenge I've ever faced as a football player," but reiterated he will be ready for the start of training camp.

"It was such an invasive surgery," said Pennington of the procedure performed by noted Birmingham, Ala.-based orthopedic surgeon Dr. William Andrews in early February. "I had to start all over. I couldn't brush my teeth with my right arm for two months. It really breaks you down."

Chad Pennington
Quarterback
New York Jets
Profile
2004 SEASON STATISTICS
Att Comp PaTD RuTD Int Rat
370 242 16 1 9 91.0
The Jets star made the remarks, first reported by The Herald of Monterey, Calif., at a football camp operated by head coach Herm Edwards at California State University. Pennington had previously discussed the surgery but not with such strong language nor with such a candid admission of his difficult rehabilitation.

Pennington, 29, played the final seven games of the 2004 season with the torn rotator and a torn labrum. While the team acknowledged during the season that Pennington was playing with a damaged shoulder, Jets officials and club physicians acknowledged following the conclusion of the campaign that they intentionally underplayed the severity of the injury.

That concession precipitated criticism from the media. The Jets came under fire again recently when they were less than candid about how much throwing Pennington had done during the offseason conditioning program.

About three weeks ago, Pennington began throwing at distances of 15-35 yards. He has since increased the length and velocity of his throwing and the duration of his sessions.

"In the long run," Pennington said, "it's going to be a blessing. My arm hasn't felt this good in a long time."

Edwards gauged Pennington at "around 89 percent" rehabilitated from a surgery that was more extensive and invasive than doctors originally felt it would be. Edwards allowed that, "without Chad, it would be very difficult to make the playoffs." Pennington has posted a 23-11 record as a starter.

As an insurance policy against the possibility that Pennington might not be recovered by the start of camp, and a reaction to his past injuries, the Jets signed former Miami starter Jay Fiedler as an unrestricted free agent earlier in the offseason.

A five-year veteran, and one of the Jets' four first-round selections in the 2000 draft, Pennington has been among the NFL's most accurate and productive quarterbacks when healthy. But the former Marshall star has yet to play an entire 16-game schedule.

Pennington appeared in just two games each, with no starts, in 2000 and 2001. He didn't win the full-time job until '02, when he replaced injured an ineffective Vinny Testaverde, started the final 12 contests, and led the NFL in completion percentage (68.9) and also in quarterback rating (104.2).

But he suffered a fracture and dislocation of his left wrist in the 2003 preseason, injuries that sidelined him for the first six contests overall and forcing Pennington to miss seven starts. Then came the 2004 shoulder damage, an injury so severe that Pennington recently conceded that he might have been unable to play in the AFC championship game had the Jets defeated Pittsburgh in their divisional round contest.

New York lost the divisional round game in overtime.

Even with the torn rotator cuff, Pennington started 13 games and completed 242 of 370 attempts for 2,673 yards, with 16 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. His passer rating of 91.0 was still the sixth-best in the AFC.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.