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Jets QB Chad Pennington Conf. Call - 12/18/02

Pennington: We’ve been able to establish a rhythm and get some things going. I think the biggest thing is that we’re just playing better football.



Q: Your team seems to have responded since you were inserted into the starting lineup. Can you talk a little bit about not just your play, but the team's play since you took over for Vinny [Testaverde]?

CP: Well, for the most part, we've been able to establish a rhythm and get some things going. I think the biggest thing is that we're just playing better football. In the beginning of the season, we weren't playing very good football. We weren't playing fundamentally sound. We've been able to just get better on a week-to-week basis and just keep improving.

Q: I know you're saying that you're playing better football, but last week, you guys suffered a setback in Champaign. What happened in that game? I know Wayne [Chrebet] suffered the unfortunate fumble at the 14-yard line when he tried to leap some defenders, but what happened to you guys? Did you have a little bit of a letdown in that game?

CP: Well, we just didn't play Jet football. We didn't come out and execute up to our ability. Any time you don't execute in the NFL, you're going to get beat. It doesn't matter who you play or what their record is. That's the bottom line. There's really no explanations for it other than when we came out, we just did not play the type of football that we're capable of playing and that we have been playing for the past six or seven weeks.

Q: In the second week of the season, the Patriots beat you guys pretty handily down there. Obviously, as you mentioned, you guys are a much different football team than you were in Week Two, right?

CP: Absolutely. I think that we've made big time strides and we're really playing well together. We know that we still have a tough challenge ahead of us. It's a big challenge for us, but I think we'll approach it the right way and we'll be ready to play.

Q: Chad, it seems obvious in retrospect that your midweek scuffle on the practice field didn't do the club any good.

CP: Well, that's behind us. It's kind of like when brothers get together and scrap for a little while and then they talk about the differences and then they let it go. That's exactly what happened. In the game of football, there's a conflict of interest when you're practicing as far as players trying to get better and also to make sure that the scout team is giving a good look and things like that, so you have a conflict of interest and it gets competitive and things like that just happen sometimes. What you try to do is you try to eliminate as many of those as possible. But, I don't think that was the reason why we went up to Chicago and got beat. If we wanted to, we could use that as an excuse, but I don't think we will, because it has nothing to do with it.

Q: Similar to Tom Brady here, you had a chance to sit behind a veteran quarterback for a couple of years in Vinny. Do you think that helped you, being able to kind of step in and make the immediate impact that you have, kind of sitting behind and learning from a veteran like Testaverde?

CP: Absolutely. I think having the chance to be mentored by a great veteran, one who has great experience and great knowledge not only of the game on the field, but off the field, always helps a young player. It allows a young player to adjust to his surroundings and get used to what the NFL is all about. To me, the reason that I've been able to step in and feel comfortable is because of Vinny and how he approaches the game and how he approaches the situation.

Q: How has Curtis Martin's role changed, if it's changed at all as the season has progressed?

CP: I don't think it's changed. I think we all know that Curtis Martin drives our offense. We all understand that if you're going to win games in the NFL, you have to be able to run the football. You can't forget about that. Last week, he did a very good job of running the football and had a really good game and he keeps getting stronger and stronger and we know that we need to give 28 the football in order to be successful.

Q: The theme in the Patriots locker room seems to be that the playoffs start now because there's no margin for error and obviously for your team, with seven losses, it's probably even more so. Do you guys kind of feel that way? This is it and the playoffs start now?

CP: Well, we've had our backs to the wall for a long time now. We've been playing every week with no room for error. This week is no different for us. We know that it's going to be a playoff-type atmosphere and it's going to be a 60-minute battle from the beginning whistle to the ending play. That's what makes it fun and that's what makes it exciting.

Q: How can you prepare yourself for a night game where it's going to be very cold and likely very windy? Do you prepare yourself any differently going into a game like that?

CP: Well, I think New York has prepared me for that. Playing in The Meadowlands and dealing with the wind and the cold, that's part of playing here in the Northeast. I feel comfortable with that. Really, I think it's all in your mindset. If you're focused totally on what you have to do as a player to help your team win, the elements and things like that are secondary. To me, that's what makes the game of football so great – you have to play in the elements and you have to deal with other situations and circumstances that affect the game.

Q: When you approach this game, you obviously look at film and you can see that the Patriots have given up 100-yard games to a number of backs. Your first reaction might be, 'Let's give it to Curtis and ride him,' or is it the flip side, 'They'll be looking for Curtis, so we'll hit them with something else'?

CP: I think you have to be very careful when you look at stats and make sure that you don't make too many generalizations, because the Patriots defense, they're very aggressive. They do a very good job of actually stopping the run and having guys right there to make plays. It just so happens every once in a while a big play is broken and that kind of skews the statistics a bit. We're not going in thinking that this is going to be a track meet or anything like this. This is going to be just a good, hard-nosed battle and trying to fight for every inch and every yard.

Q: When you start 1-4 in this league or even 2-5 as you guys did, a lot of people would say, 'That's pretty much it.' It's tough to turn the season around, but you guys have been able to do that. What allowed that to happen? Did the players themselves kind of get together and say, 'Hey, there's still something on the line here'? Did [Herm] Edwards not let you guys quit? What happened?

CP: I think our turnaround has been a tribute to the guys in the locker room and the kind of character and willpower they have not to give up, to keep fighting and to keep playing. When you keep playing and you keep working hard, good things happen. Some good things started to happen for us and we just kind of got caught fire and just kept the ball rolling. That's our challenge now. We've had a setback and the challenge now is to bounce back from that and try to get us a win.

Q: Emotionally speaking, you're both coming off setbacks, both the Patriots and you guys. Will whoever can rebound from that fastest have the upper hand?

CP: I think that as a professional in this league, you quickly come to realize that you have no time to think about emotional setbacks the week before. You have to have a short-term memory. Once that last game is over, it's time to roll it right into next week and to get ready for the next opponent. If you do get caught looking at the past or thinking about it, you're beat before you even step out on the field. Right now, we have a big challenge and an exciting challenge ahead of us and for us to even think about last week would be doing a disservice to ourselves and not giving ourselves the best chance to win.

Q: I understand you're not necessarily the type of quarterback that Steve McNair is, but when you look at what he did on the ground against the Patriots on Monday night, does that make you think at all, 'Hey, I might be able to do something with my legs on Sunday'?

CP: Well, I think the biggest thing is that you just have to play the game of football. You have to react and trust your reactions and instincts and whatever it takes to get the job done, that has to be your attitude. You can't really pinpoint certain things, because every game's a little bit different, but the one thing that you can take from McNair's performance is that he had a whatever-it-took mentality. He was going to get the job done no matter how pretty or ugly it looked, he was going to try to get it done.

Q: Can you talk about the pressures of playing in New York? It can be a great place to play when you're winning and it can be a real tough place to play when you're losing. I think the back page of the Daily News or the Post had "Chokejob" as the headline after you guys came home from Chicago on Monday. Just talk about the pressures of playing in New York.

CP: Well, unfortunately, I think that the fans' perspective and the media's perspective are two totally different things. I think that we have some great fans, some die-hard fans that come to every game and they live and they die Jets football. That's very exciting. Then, on the other hand, we've got a perception around here where people love to write the negative stuff when the Jets fall or when they come up a little short. My goal as a player here is to try to change that. The only way you can change that is with your actions on the field and playing better and winning more games.

Q: How has Vinny handled going back to the bench? How has he been during this whole stretch since you've taken over?

CP: He's been amazing. He's been a true professional. He has treated this situation like a true team player. We're constantly talking to each other. He's constantly helping me out and making sure that I've done all my preparation and have done everything possible to be ready for the game. I couldn't ask for a better teammate.

Q: How much did Coach Edwards deal with last week's flare-up, or did he let you guys sort that out amongst yourselves?

CP: He basically just let us sort it out among ourselves and let us know that professionals most of the time don't do things like this and we had to work it out. It was between the players, and we did that. We settled it right there on the field right after it happened and it's not even an issue now.

Q: I suppose it's fair to say you stand behind both your centers, right?

CP: Both my centers. I know that's a joke, but what are you trying to say?

Q: That was part of the deal, right, [Kevin] Mawae and the backup's name escapes me.

CP: Yeah, I don't know what was written about it. I can only tell you my reflection on it. The biggest thing to come out of it is that we're all in this together. We're all teammates and it's not an offense or a defense thing or a position thing. We're all in this together and we know that as players we've got to compete with each other, but at the same time, we can't be combative and we can't be at each other's throats all the time. We've got to take care of each other.

Q: It would have been easy to fold after the start you had, especially after you let that big lead get away to Cleveland. In your mind, why do you think you did it? This season could very easily have gotten away from you guys early on.

CP: The reason we didn't fold our tent and go home early is because of the guys in the locker room. It's because of my teammates. Their will and their desire to keep getting better and try to turn some positives into something that was very bad at the time is the reason that we were able to turn it around. That's why we're sitting in the position that we are. Even though we had a setback last week, we still have a chance. As long as you have a chance, you've got to keep fighting.

Q: That was going to be my next question. Clearly, you have a shot at the playoffs, but realistically it's a pretty long shot. Given what you said earlier, I think there's no reason why you guys won't keep battling down to the wire.

CP: Exactly. This league is really crazy and things happen all the time that you really can't explain. For us not to fight would be the craziest thing in the world. We have no reason not to go to New England and fight as much as we can and try to come out with a win. That's our mindset, that's our goal and that's what we want to do.

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