Pennington out 12 weeks

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 25, 2003

NEW YORK -- Vinny Testaverde was supposed to provide veteran leadership to Chad Pennington and the rest of the New York Jets this season.

Scrap that plan.

Pennington is expected to miss 12 weeks with a broken and dislocated left wrist, leaving the quarterback duties to the 17-year veteran. So far, coach Herman Edwards does not seem worried about entrusting his team to a 39-year-old player.

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''I mean, we're acting like Vinny Testaverde has never played quarterback in the National Football League,'' Edwards said Sunday. ''He's not a rookie. He's a veteran guy. That's why he was here. Now he's going to be the guy that goes in there.''

Pennington will not be in for a while. Though Edwards said Pennington's injury is not career-threatening, he would not rule out the possibility that Pennington could miss the entire year.

The fourth-year player was injured Saturday night in an exhibition game against the New York Giants. As Brandon Short came on a blitz, Pennington rolled to his right and threw the ball away. But Short tackled him from behind, and Pennington used his wrist to cushion his fall to the turf.

Edwards said that in addition to the dislocation, Pennington broke four bones that connect the knuckles to the wrist and also has ligament damage.

He said Pennington had seven pins inserted in his wrist and will be in a splint for the next week. Pennington then will wear a cast for three-to-four weeks.

The 12-week estimation is the doctors' best guess. Edwards said Pennington could come back earlier, depending on how his wrist heals. If he does miss 12 weeks, he could return against Jacksonville on Nov. 23 and play the final six games of the Jets' season.

''I'm optimistic,'' Edwards said. ''I think if anyone can do it, Chad has the will to do it. But we're not going to put him in harm's way.''

Pennington became the starter in the fifth game last season, after Testaverde went 1-3. The young backup led the Jets to the AFC East title, and he led the NFL with a 104.2 passer rating and 68.9 completion percentage.

Now he might not get the chance to play this season.

Testaverde was in the same situation in 1999. He tore his left Achilles' tendon in the season opener and was done for the season, replaced by Ray Lucas. Testaverde also was coming off a career year in 1998, when he threw 29 touchdown passes and led the Jets to the AFC championship game.

''As I told Ray Lucas back when I first got here: If you hang around long enough, you'll get your opportunity,'' Testaverde said Saturday night. ''He got his opportunity, and I'm getting a second chance here. Hopefully, I make the best of it and we make the best of it as a team.''

Running back Curtis Martin also expressed optimism after the Giants game.

''We've got a seasoned veteran in Vinny Testaverde,'' Martin said. ''We don't feel like we'll miss a beat.''

Pennington became the second starting quarterback to go down with a serious injury in the preseason. Falcons quarterback Michael Vick broke his right leg against Baltimore and is expected to be out at least six weeks.

Edwards believes the injuries to Vick and Pennington will renew debate on the length of the preseason. The Jets play their fifth exhibition game Thursday night against Philadelphia, where Testaverde is expected to play in one series.

''I think it's going to get talked about,'' Edwards said. ''But to me, all players are important. You hate to see any player get hurt. What's happening is some of our star players are getting hurt, so now there's a concern.''

With Pennington out, the Jets are looking into signing or trading for a veteran backup in the next few days. Edwards would not get into specifics, but kept endorsing Testaverde as his starter.

''It's Vinny. It's not Chad. That's no one's fault,'' Edwards said. ''That happens in football. Vinny will do a good job for us.''