NEW YORK (Feb. 28, 2006) -- Chad Pennington wants to stay with the New York Jets and hopes to come to an agreement with the team on a renegotiated contract.
Pennington said on a conference call from Bradenton, Fla., where he is rehabbing his injured right shoulder, that the biggest issue was finding "middle ground."
"I'm an optimist," the quarterback said. "If everything works out the way I think it can work out, I'll be a Jet. If that doesn't happen, that's OK, too, because I've enjoyed my time here. This isn't anything personal against me. The Jets need to do what they think is necessary to take the organization to the next level."
The Jets want to slash his base pay to make his contract more salary-cap friendly. The team is about $26 million over the cap and needs to come to an agreement with Pennington before free agency starts March 3.
He is expected to have a salary cap number close to $12 million this season, including a $3 million roster bonus due in March. The Jets must also weigh whether they believe Pennington can come back from two major shoulder operations in an eight-month span and be effective.
"I've proven throughout the years there's no reason to have that much doubt because I've come back from injuries and been successful," Pennington said. "I understand their concern and wanting to make the right decision for the organization.
"That's where we are as far as trying to get to middle ground and trying to make sure both sides share the risk and both sides are committed. That's all I'm asking for, for both sides to be committed to each other. That's what we're trying to get to."
But Pennington is prepared to hit the free-agent market if the Jets decide to let him go.
"I want to be a Jet. I want to finish what we started," he said. "But I realize it's still a business and you have to do what's best for you."
Pennington and his agent, Tom Condon, rejected the Jets' first offer of slashing his base salary to $1 million. Condon met with Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum last week at the NFL combine, and Pennington is willing to continue negotiating until something is settled.
"If I wasn't comfortable with that, then I wouldn't be negotiating," Pennington said. "I would cut it off cold turkey. I understand the concerns on my side, I understand the concerns on the Jets' side. I feel good about where I stand and I understand where they are. It's a matter of coming to an agreement."
Entering his seventh year in the NFL, Pennington said his rehab is going "great" and he should start throwing "fairly soon." He also said he expects to be ready for offseason training activities, minicamp and the start of training camp in late July.
After tearing his right rotator cuff in November 2004, Pennington played through the injury and had surgery the following February. But he got hurt again in September and missed the final 13 games of the season.
The Jets have the No. 4 pick in the draft and there has been speculation they could use it on a quarterback. Pennington said he wouldn't take that decision personally if he was still on the team.
Right now, all he's focusing on is rehabbing his shoulder and keeping his spot with the Jets.
"This isn't a decision that can be made overnight," Pennington said. "It's a decision that affects the future of the Jets and it's a decision that affects my future as a football player. ... I've definitely ridden the roller coaster of emotions up and down but at the end of the day you've got to do what's best for you and your family and your career. I hope that includes being with the Jets. That's where I want to be."