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Clemens prepared to step in if Pennington can't go

Kellen Clemens' wife was home watching the New York Jets' game against the New England Patriots when she saw Chad Pennington writhing on the turf. "She didn't even notice that I was going in," the Jets' backup quarterback said Monday.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Kellen Clemens' wife was home watching the New York Jets' game against the New England Patriots when she saw Chad Pennington writhing on the turf.

"She didn't even notice that I was going in," the Jets' backup quarterback said Monday. "She was crying because he was hurt. She's been through that a year or two ago."

Seeing Pennington struggle to get off the field with an injured ankle brought back bad memories for Nicole Clemens. During her husband's senior year at Oregon two years ago, he missed the final four games of the season after his left leg was broken during a game.

"It was a horsecollar," Clemens recalled. "It was just one guy. He horsecollared me and threw his weight into my leg."

The Jets are hoping Pennington's injury is far less serious. Pennington injured his right ankle when he was sacked during the third quarter of the Jets' 38-14 loss Sunday. He was scheduled for an MRI on Monday, and Pennington wasn't available for comment at the team's practice facility.

"Chad's an integral part of this team," Clemens said. "He's a long way from out right now. It's important having him around for his leadership, his ability and just the experience that he brings to this football team."

Coach Eric Mangini didn't know how badly Pennington is hurt or how long he'll be sidelined.

"It is the ankle, same as what was announced during the game," Mangini said. "We'll review it during the course of the week, like we do every injury situation."

If Pennington is unavailable Sunday against Baltimore, Clemens would likely get the start -- his first in the NFL.

"I prepare like I'm going to play, so if my number is called I give them the best opportunity to help the team win," Clemens said. "I'm going to prepare as best as I can and try to be as ready as possible."

Labeled a work-in-progress during his rookie season a year ago, Clemens has earned the trust and respect of his teammates after an outstanding training camp.

"I think Kellen is prepared," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "He's prepared the entire offseason, so I wouldn't expect a drop-off. I think we'll be fine and we won't have to make any adjustments, as far as receivers."

Clemens was impressive in the preseason, seizing the backup job while going 30-of-41 for 364 yards and four touchdowns. He also threw two interceptions, but his ability to consistently move the second-team offense had the Jets optimistic about their chances if Pennington went down with an injury.

They might get the opportunity to see if they were right Sunday at Baltimore.

"I think that Kellen had a very good preseason," Mangini said. "He's made a lot of progress from last year's training camp to this year's training camp and that's why he's our No. 2, where last year he was primarily our No. 3 guy."

Clemens threw one pass as a rookie, an incompletion, and appeared in only two games. In relief of Pennington on Sunday, Clemens surpassed his production from last season by going 5-of-10 for 35 yards.

"It's my second year in the offense and I had a chance to get some live bullets, especially this last week, so I'm going to go in there and do the best that I can," Clemens said.

The increased workload Clemens received in preseason, when he outplayed Marques Tuiasosopo -- and even Pennington -- was a big factor in the quarterback feeling he can step in if needed.

"That's definitely a positive," Clemens said. "If your number's called and you've got some positive snaps behind you, whether in the preseason or wherever, it definitely helps the confidence for a guy like me who hasn't played a lot in the regular season."

If he does play against the Ravens' defense, Clemens knows he's in for a tough test.

"There's not a lot of weak points in that chain," Clemens said. "They're very talented. They'll be a challenge for us."

Oh, and as for those tears Clemens' wife shed Sunday, someone suggested that maybe they were for him having to come in and face the Patriots' defense.

"It's possible," Clemens said with a big laugh. "I didn't ask for clarification on that, but it's possible."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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