Pennington takes another step, throws at minicamp

Updated: May 31, 2006, 3:52 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

He may be a dangling Chad no more.

 Chad Pennington
Pennington

Although the club offered few details, New York Jets officials confirmed that quarterback Chad Pennington, rehabilitating from a second surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, threw in seven-on-seven and "team" drills during a Tuesday practice. Pennington also repeated the activities on Wednesday.

The voluntary organized team activity (OTA) session, closed to the media, is the first time this spring that Pennington has thrown in a team-type environment since October surgery on his shoulder.

It is not known how well Pennington performed in what was viewed as an important step in his continuing recovery. But given the candor of the normally cryptic Jets organization, which under former management had been less than forthcoming in discussing Pennington's status through two shoulder injuries, the session is believed to have gone well.

Pennington is expected to continue testing the shoulder in the ongoing OTAs through this week and the Jets will convene for a veteran minicamp June 15-17.

The six-year veteran underwent surgery in early October to address an injury he suffered in a Sept. 25 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That was the second surgery in an eight-month stretch on Pennington's right rotator cuff. In February 2005, he underwent an even more extensive procedure, the result of an injury from the 2004 season.

Both surgeries were performed by noted orthopedic specialist Dr. James Andrews of Birmingham, Ala.

In retrospect, there is some feeling now that Pennington may have come back too soon from the first of the surgeries. He started the season opener in 2005, only seven months after the initial operation, and that may have contributed to the second injury. At this point, he is nearly eight months removed from the October 2005 surgery.

Sources close to Pennington insisted to ESPN in early March that the Jets quarterback would be able to throw at some point in the spring. And last month, Pennington said that, in individual workouts, he was "throwing every route we have in the playbook." How much Pennington has cut loose with his throws, the velocity to which he has built up during his long recovery, is not yet known.

As insurance against the possibility that Pennington would not be able to start the season, the Jets traded this spring for former Washington first-round quarterback Patrick Ramsey, a four-year veteran. The club invested a second-round draft choice on Kellen Clemens of Oregon and the depth chart also includes three-year veteran Brooks Bollinger, who started nine games in 2005 because of the injuries to Pennington and then-backup Jay Fiedler.

One of the Jets' four first-round choices in the 2000 draft, Pennington has yet to play an entire 16-game season. He played sparingly his first two years in the league, then replaced Vinny Testaverde during the 2002 season as the starter, and captured the NFL passing title that year with a 104.2 efficiency rating.

But in 2003, Pennington broke his left wrist in the preseason and appeared in just 10 games, with nine starts. He missed three games in 2004 because of injuries and then started only three games last year before re-injuring his shoulder. The result: In the past three seasons, Pennington has logged just 25 starts.

Pennington, who will turn 30 on June 26, dramatically restructured his contract this spring to remain with the Jets, who otherwise would have been forced to release him for salary cap reasons.

For his career, Pennington has completed 767 of 1,174 passes for 8,621 yards, with 55 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions, and a passer rating of 92.1. In his three starts in 2005, Pennington completed 49 of 83 passes for 530 yards, with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. The former Marshall University star has played in 44 games and started 37 of them.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.