HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (April 29, 2005) -- Chad Pennington stood in the huddle with a clipboard in his hands, barking encouragement to Jay Fiedler as he ran the offense for the New York Jets.
Pennington didn't stop there. After rookie Mike Nugent missed his first kick as a Jet and struggled with his second attempt, Pennington urged him to remember back to the 55-yard field goal he made last year to give Ohio State a 24-21 victory against Marshall, Pennington's alma mater.
Nugent made it.
So it went as the Jets opened minicamp. Though Pennington didn't participate while he continues to rehab his surgically repaired right shoulder, the franchise quarterback made his presence felt, spreading enthusiasm whenever he could.
Pennington should begin throwing in June, and said there is "no doubt" he will be ready for the Jets' season opener, Sept. 11 against Kansas City. Though it is unclear how much Pennington will be able to do in training camp, he is preparing himself for the regular season.
"Our goal, just like every players' goal, is to be ready for that opening-day game," Pennington said. "Not to be totally ready for minicamp or even totally ready for training camp. It's not like we just have one month to go. We have three or four months left and that's why we feel really good about everything."
Several key players were absent from camp, as expected. Pro Bowl defensive end John Abraham hasn't signed his franchise tender because he wants a long-term contract, so he continues to work out on his own. Veteran cornerback Donnie Abraham is excused from minicamp while he contemplates retirement.
But the biggest questions surrounded Nugent and Pennington. Coach Herman Edwards seemed amused with several rumors about Pennington's status. Edwards' mother phoned him from California to tell him she heard Pennington's career was over.
"There's a lot of rumors swirling his career's over," Edwards said. "His career is not over. We anticipate he'll be throwing in June."
Instead of practicing, Pennington has been busy in meetings, learning the new offense from coordinator Mike Heimerdinger. Pennington compared this offseason to the time he spent learning behind Vinny Testaverde as a rookie.
"That's what I can do now in this offseason, is really watch this offense and look at the details of it and not have to worry about going out and making reads and throws off the cuff," Pennington said. "I can really watch the guys in front of me and really learn."
Until Pennington returns full time, Fiedler is taking snaps with the first-team offense. The former Miami Dolphins starter looked poised and comfortable, connecting on several deep passes. That shouldn't be too surprising, considering Heimerdinger plans on opening up the offense this season.
Receiver Wayne Chrebet, never a fan of former coordinator Paul Hackett, said, "This offense will be light years away from last year. In this offense, everyone is going to have a big part."
And then there was Nugent, the Jets' first pick of the draft, No. 47 overall in the second round. Nugent, now the incumbent after veteran Doug Brien was released April 28, lined up for his first kick with cameras clicking and video rolling.
The snap from James Dearth was bad, and the 43-yard attempt was short and wide right. The next kick hit the crossbar and went over. He missed another one, going 4-of-6 on the day. Never before has a Jets kicker been so highly scrutinized at a minicamp.
"The better guys are the ones where pressure brings out the best in them," Nugent said. "That's the kind of kicker I try to be."
The Associated Press News Service
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