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Pennington talks about ‘human’ reaction to Jets
Former Webb standout has a new post-N.Y. perspective

Chad Pennington sorts through camp participants for a drill during the 19th Annual Pennington Quarterbacks and Receivers Camp at Webb School of Knoxville in July.- Alan Sloan/farragutpress
Chad Pennington may have been “Mr. Nice Guy” on the outside in the days, weeks and months after being released by the New York Jets after eight seasons.

However, this National Football League quarterback and former Webb School of Knoxville and Marshall University standout said he was churning inside Sept. 7, 2008.

Picked up by the Miami Dolphins to be its starter in 2008, Pennington saw a familiar opponent to open the season that day.

“I probably would have been better off in a boxing match that day than a football game because there were so many emotions, and I am a human being,” Pennington said about playing the Jets, a 20-14 winner at Miami. “It was tough to control my emotions because of the freshness of the situation.

“The situation was so fresh where I’d just been released.”

Though likely future Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre was the Jets’ new quarterback, Pennington and his Dolphins would get the last laugh in 2008.

About clinching the AFC East Division championship, ironically, against the Jets in Giants Stadium the final Sunday of the regular season (24-17 win), Pennington said, “I’d prepared myself four or five weeks in advance to say, ‘hey, if we are able to get to that point the division’s going to have to go through New York and we’re going to have to win in New York.

“So, the emotion wasn’t there like I expected.”

The end result was the greatest turnaround by one team in NFL history, as Miami earned a playoff berth with a 10-6 record.

Leading the way offensively, Pennington was named NFL “Comeback Player of the Year” for the second time in his career and was Most Valuable Player runner-up. In 16 regular season games he completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards and 19 touchdowns (only seven interceptions).

Pennington labeled the move from New York to Miami “a huge challenge” going to a team that was just 1-15 the prior season.

However, ”It was certainly an oasis for me because I was in a fresh situation, a new situation,” Pennington added. “And people wanted me there.”

Pennington answered critics, including those reportedly at the highest levels in the Jets organization, who thought Pennington’s arm strength wasn’t good enough — especially considering the swirling winds common in Giants Stadium.

“To me it’s not about arm strength where you’re throwing in the wind, it’s about how tight of a spiral you throw,” the ex-Spartan said.

“I didn’t, necessarily, have, in my opinion, that much trouble throwing into the swirling wind,” Pennington added. “It does create a challenge.

“I think the difference is, is that when you’re playing with the Jets or you’re playing with the Giants you’re playing with it eight Sundays out of the year. The consistency is the toughest part for a New York quarterback to have to get used to.”

For all of the media and fan scrutiny and criticism in sports’ biggest market, and ending by being released, Pennington still considers his Jets experience as positive.

“Playing in New York taught me that football can’t be my God, that I must enjoy football and enjoy the opportunity that I have, but it can’t control every thought and every emotion that is within my makeup,” he said.

“And I learned that in ’07 when I was benched,” Pennington added.

“And I had some time to take a step back and really evaluate who I was, not only as a professional football player but as a person, and understand that football is what I do, and it’s not who I am, and make that distinction.”

Pennington and wife, Robin, have three children: Cole, 5, Luke, 3, and Gage, 4-months.


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