QB Chad Pennington passes on Brett Favre talks
By RICH CIMINI
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Saturday, July 26th 2008, 11:02 PM
Chad Pennington is doing well in training camp, but can't compete with talks of Brett Favre coming to N.Y.
Three days into training camp, the Jets' quarterback competition has evolved into a three-way battle:
Chad Pennington vs. Kellen Clemens vs. the specter of Brett Favre.
Pennington is beating Clemens on the field, beating him soundly, but he can't compete with the rampant Favre speculation. The Jets' longtime starter knows if they somehow pull off a trade for the Packers legend - a big 'if' - his days in New York are over.
"Yeah, absolutely, that's definitely a possibility," Pennington told the Daily News Saturday after the morning practice at Hofstra. "Shoot, ever since last year" - when he was benched - "it's always been in limbo. I've kind of grown accustomed to it over the past year."
There were no Favre sightings on Day 2 of the Brett Watch, but his presence was felt everywhere.
When Clemens sailed a pass out of bounds, a fan yelled, "We want Favre." The young quarterback fumbled a snap near the goal line and was forced to take a penalty lap around the field, but he was spared a dose of verbal abuse because loud music was blaring from the sideline speakers as he ran past the crowded bleachers.
"You have to protect the football," coach Eric Mangini, almost disgusted, said later to reporters. "The snap is the most basic play in football."
Adhering to the organization's tight-lipped approach, Mangini refused again to comment on the Favre reports. The Jets have expressed an interest in the future Hall of Famer - they received permission from the Packers to speak with him - but the depth of their interest remains unclear.
The Jets are believed to be monitoring the situation, perhaps waiting for the market to develop. The retired Favre, 38, apparently wants to play again, but there doesn't seem to be many - if any - aggressive suitors.
The Bucs have been linked to Favre, but they're showing little interest - or maybe they're disguising their intentions. Contrary to a report, they haven't requested permission to speak with Favre, according to a Bucs source. Some believe the Packers are leveraging the Bucs and Jets against each other to create a market.
Favre reportedly has said he's planning to report to the Packers' training camp, perhaps as soon as today, and the Packers desperately want to avoid that distraction.
At Hofstra, Pennington continued to mind his business, prepared for anything. He claimed he doesn't feel slighted by the Favre speculation. Asked if he has harbored any fleeting thoughts of requesting a trade, he said candidly, "I'd be lying if I said those emotions never come up. They do. Two things I try to remember: The game is not my god ... and, No. 2, it's not about the game; it's about the men in the game."
Pennington said with no hesitation that he wants to play for the Jets.
"Absolutely," he said. "To me, the best scenario would be for me to finish my career as a Jet. In this league, with so much change, to say you played for one team, it's quite an accomplishment."
After a slow start, Pennington has looked sharp in recent practices, seemingly showing more velocity than in the past. He'll never have a big arm, but he tweaked his mechanics in the offseason, and maybe he's starting to see the dividends. He ended the morning practice with a 68-yard touchdown pass to Brad Smith, who split the safeties.
Pennington is so determined to improve his mechanics that he holds secret throwing sessions at night. On Thursday, at 8:30 p.m., he repaired to a practice field and fired 40 passes to an equipment manager and an assistant trainer. He threw until it was dark.
The quarterback competition isn't going the way the Jets had hoped - they want to see Clemens put a stranglehold on the job - but there's a long way to go. If Clemens continues to struggle, maybe they will intensify the pursuit of Favre.
During a 30-minute autograph session after practice, Pennington received an outpouring of support from the fans. We don't need Favre, some told him. Pennington, in a playful mood, reminded the fans the last time he faced Favre. It was Lambeau Field, December, 2006. The Jets won, 38-10.
"And it was 31-0 at halftime," Pennington said, smiling at the memory.