Blast from past: Jets turn to Testaverde at QB

Updated: September 27, 2005, 9:07 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Just one day after apprising Vinny Testaverde in a telephone call that they would likely go in a different direction as they scramble to address a quarterback situation suddenly in crisis mode, the New York Jets on Tuesday reversed field and signed the veteran passer, who will begin practicing with the team this week.

Vinny Testaverde
Testaverde

The addition of Testaverde, 41, comes as the Jets are resigned to losing starter Chad Pennington for the balance of the season. Team officials will await further examination of Pennington's damaged right shoulder, after an examination by Dr. James Andrews could not confirm a torn rotator cuff, but coach Herman Edwards announced at a Tuesday press conference that Pennington's season was likely over.

"It's tough, I anticipate he will be out for the season," Edwards said. "I've never been in the situation where you lose the No. 1 and 2 quarterbacks in a span of seven plays."

Jay Fiedler, Pennington's backup, also injured his shoulder Sunday.

"I don't anticipate either of them being back this year," Edwards said.

Fiedler, who has a partially dislocated right shoulder, also is scheduled to be checked by Andrews. Despite reports that Fiedler will miss the rest of the year, there is some feeling he could return in about two months, since his injury isn't expected to require surgery.

Third-year veteran Brooks Bollinger, a sixth-round pick from Wisconsin in the 2003 draft, will start Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens. It will mark the first start for Bollinger, who has appeared in just one regular-season contest.

Testaverde, who started 15 games for the Dallas Cowboys in 2004, will begin his second stint with the Jets. The Long Island native played with the team from 1998-2003, starting in 57 games in that stretch. For his career, the 18-year veteran has appeared in 217 games and started in 204 of them. He has completed 3,631 of 6,420 passes for 44,475 yards, with 268 touchdown passes and 255 interceptions.

"I'm excited, happy, nervous, anxious, all those feelings about playing for the Jets again," Testaverde said. "If I didn't have high expectations, I wouldn't come back here."

With the Cowboys in 2004, Testaverde threw for 3,532 yards, with 17 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions.

On Monday, cognizant of the injuries to Pennington and Fiedler, both of which occurred in Sunday's overtime loss to Jacksonville, Testaverde phoned Edwards to offer his services. Although not completely rebuffed, Testaverde was told that the club was considering other alternatives, and would likely sign a quarterback who had been in an NFL training camp this summer.

By Tuesday, though, Jets officials had decided Testaverde offered the best opportunity for winning this season. Details of the contract he signed were not yet available. He is expected to meet with Jets coaches on Tuesday to begin reviewing the playbook.

"Vinny's a guy who has been here," Edwards said. "He's a good fit for us as far as he is in his comfort zone here, he knows me, we had a great relationship. He can throw the ball. He can get up at 3 in the morning and still throw an out [pattern] as well as anybody."

While he comes with some drawbacks -- notably a lack of mobility and a propensity for turnovers -- Testaverde might actually be a good fit for the offense installed this summer by new offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. The design calls for a more vertical passing game than the Jets have featured in recent seasons, with the ball going deeper up the field, and Testaverde still has solid arm strength.

There was some thought this spring, with Pennington coming off extensive surgery to his right shoulder and having experienced injuries that forced him to miss time in both 2003 and 2004, that the Jets might sign Testaverde as an insurance policy. The team opted for the younger Fiedler instead and Testaverde was not in any team's camp this summer.

In addition to his first tenure with the Jets, Testaverde, the first overall pick in the 1987 draft, has played with Tampa Bay (1987-1992), Cleveland (1993-95), Baltimore (1996-1997) and Dallas (2004).

"Vinny will be our second quarterback," Edwards said. "We are looking for a third and will have one by the end of the day."

Even as the Jets completed the deal with Testaverde, who can essentially drive to work every day now, the team was still considering other option to bolster the depth chart.

The Jets are scheduled to audition three veteran free agent quarterbacks -- Doug Johnson, Jesse Palmer and Jonathan Quinn -- on Tuesday and a team official said they could bring in three or four more before the end of the week. It is possible, after Andrews examines Pennington and Fiedler on Tuesday, and renders an opinion on their shoulder injuries, that New York might be forced to add another quarterback beyond just Testaverde.

Several league sources told ESPN.com that the Jets have inquired about the availability of former Washington starter Patrick Ramsey, demoted two weeks ago, but were told by the Redskins they will not trade him. League sources also confirmed Tuesday morning that the Jets have had no discussions with Tennessee about the possibility of trading for Titans backup Billy Volek, widely viewed as one of the top No. 2 quarterbacks in the league. Volek played under Heimerdinger in Tennessee and knows the offense well.

With Pennington now likely to have a second rotator cuff surgery in less than a year, his long-term viability as the team's franchise-caliber quarterback is in question. Before the start of the 2004 season, the Jets signed Pennington to a seven-year contract extension worth $64 million and including $23 million in bonuses.

It is not known if a quarterback has ever recovered from two rotator cuff surgeries, let alone two in less than a year. Andrews, who performed the original surgery, is hoping that the latest setback is just a case of Pennington tearing adhesions and scar tissue in the shoulder, but that might be overly optimistic. There are some in the Jets organization who fear Pennington's career could be ended by the latest injury or that, at the very least, he will never be the same as the quarterback who led the league in passing in 2002.

Jets team physician Dr. Elliott Pellman has apprised Pennington that he suffered a torn right rotator cuff, ESPN and ESPN.com confirmed on Monday night. While they would like to hold out hope, Jets officials seem to concur with that diagnosis.

Edwards feels badly for Pennington.

"It is harder for me because we know all the work he has put into it," Edwards said. "The doctors had him on a schedule that got him back this season. What do you say to a guy about that?

"He'll do what he has to do to come back. But it is tough. He's a little down."

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.

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