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Chad Pennington Interview

Interview With QB Chad Pennington 10.10.05
Courtesy Of NY Jets

Opening statement.
Before I take some questions, I just want to give an overview of what’s going on the last couple of weeks. Obviously, there’s been a lot of speculation and all kinds of predictions and things of what’s been going on the last couple of weeks and what should be happening and what should not be happening. The injury that I sustained September 25th was a rare injury, and it’s a risk that we all take as QB whether you’re coming off of a shoulder injury or not. Healthy or not healthy, when you go through a hit like that some type of damage will be done to your shoulder. After that was done, obviously I had an MRI done by our medical staff here with the Jets at Pro Health and I had an MRI done with Dr. Andrews down in Birmingham. There was not a discrepancy between what both medical camps felt. I think there were two interpretations that were similar in a lot of ways, and in two scenarios, they gave the perception that there was a discrepancy. A lot of people thought on the outside that after looking at the injury, after September 25th, it is a career­ending thing, but both camps knew it wasn’t a career­ending injury. Both camps knew that there was probably some damage done in the shoulder area, to what extent was the big question. And the one thing about MRIs, they give some detail, they give some knowledge to the situation, but they don’t; MRIs do not disclose everything that’s going on in the shoulder. The only way you can truly tell what’s going on in the shoulder is to have a scope done on your shoulder arthroscopically and let the doctor go in there and see exactly what was done. So, contrary to popular belief, I did not refuse to stand here and do interviews after the MRIs. It was a team decision made by Ron, myself, Coach Edwards, Terry Bradway and Dave Price that the best thing to do right now at that point on Wednesday was to issue a statement and to give you. I sat down for an hour, and tried to put all of the knowledge that I had together and give you as much knowledge and information and give that to you. I felt that it would have been a waste of my time, and yours, to stand up and the only answer that I would have for any of your questions would be “I don’t know.” Because I literally did not know the extent of the situation, the extent of my shoulder, what was going on with my shoulder, the prognosis, the rehab, none of those questions. This last week and a half have been really difficult for me, because normally it’s black and white in athletics. It’s either this or that- you have a challenge ahead of you, you know what it is and you go attack that challenge. I had no clue what was going on, and the doctors could give me some inclination as to what was going on, but they truly didn’t know until they went in there to find out. So, after about ten days of being in a gray area as an athlete, which is not a good area to be in, and talking to close family and friends and getting opinions throughout, people that I care about and care what they think, I felt like the only way that I was going to get an answer as an athlete, and the only way our organization was to get an answer as an athlete, was to go to Birmingham, have Dr. Andrews do an arthroscopic procedure on me. Hoping that nothing was wrong and if something was wrong, he could definitely tell what it was and what he needed to do and fix it. That decision to have that surgery done was made by me Wednesday night and only five people knew about it. So no one within the PR department or no one within this organization, some of my teammates, still don’t know that I had the surgery. They are just finding out today when they see me in the training room with a couple of puncture holes in my shoulder. No one knew about that. I felt that it was in the best interests of my team and for what the team was going through, to go down, get the surgery done and then I could sit back and answer the questions, because I didn’t have any answers and really no one had answers as far as what was going on. So, that’s what I did. I went down to Birmingham Thursday morning, arrived there around 11:00am, and by one o’clock, Dr. Andrews was looking at me. Now, Dr. Montgomery also went down there with me, as well as my wife. This is another example of how both medical camps were on the same page, both Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Andrews were in the surgery room and the operating table with me at the time of surgery. Dr. Montgomery was right there and saw everything and helped Dr. Andrews make the decisions on what exactly to do. Come to find out, after they did the arthroscopic procedure, they saw that the rotator cuff was basically air tight, the words that Dr. Andrews used. The repair that was done in February withheld, withstood the pressure that my shoulder was placed under September 25th. Everything looked really good. It was actually an unrelated injury that caused this. The injury was to the shoulder capsule in the front part of the shoulder, the capsular area. There was a tear in the capsule area and there was a minor tear on the underneath surface of the rotator cuff that just needed to be cleaned up a little bit. I think two sutures were put in, and then that was it. I think that everyone was pleased that my rotator cuff and my labrum was intact. Everything looked really well and that it was strong enough to take a hit that I took, which was pretty major. I’ve heard some people trying to compare it to when Sam Knight stripped the ball from me in Kansas City; it was nothing like that. My shoulder was coming forward, the defensive end was pulling my shoulder back, he had his hand on the ball. But he had my whole hand, as my hand was coming forward, his hand was coming back and something had to give and obviously my shoulder capsule was what gave. To be able to go in with an arthroscopic procedure which is not invasive at all and to be able to see what’s going on and then do the surgery arthroscopically, to me, is a big positive. Last year the surgery was not done arthroscopically. It started out arthroscopically and Dr. Andrews ended up cutting my shoulder and having to go through and do that. To be able to repair it arthroscopically to me is a positive. The fact that my rotator cuff withstood the pressure that the shoulder was under, that my labrum didn’t tear, that all of those things stayed intact is also a positive. So, I’m pretty excited about the prognosis and the chance to not now have six months of rehab, but ten months of rehab. I think those four months of rehab, to be able to do it in a slow fashion and be able to go through a full off­season program, which I was not able to do last year, is a big positive for me. Last year I wasn’t able to go through workouts with my team. I wasn’t able to go through mini­camps or OTAs. This year, I’ll be able to do that, and that’s pretty exciting for me knowing that I can go in because I know when I’m healthy that I can compete with any of the QB in this league and that I can help our team win. To have that scenario be there for me next year is pretty exciting for me and I’m pretty fortunate that it’s happened when it has.
On his feelings on the whole situation.

You know what, I’ve had two weeks to think about this situation and it’s easy to say “why me.” But, the first question that pops in my mind is: “Why not me?” There are a lot of other situations going on in this world where there’s people that are in dire straits and that are in life­and­death situations, and an injured shoulder is not one of those situations. So, it’s unfortunate, but it’s the card that I’ve been dealt with. I know I’m strong enough as a person and as an athlete to deal with them and to get this thing right and be able to have a successful career after this. And so I’m focused on that, I’m excited about that, and I’m excited about the direction that we’re going as an organization and what we’re trying to do as a team. It’s easy to sit here and throw a pity party for myself, but I refuse to do that. That’s not in my nature and that’s not how I was raised.

On what it’s been like emotionally these last few weeks.Well, the hardest part was not knowing exactly what was going on and that’s why I made the decision as an athlete to have the arthroscopic procedure done. That was my decision. That wasn’t anybody’s decision but mine. And I felt like that would be the only way that we could truly get to the bottom of this. My hope was that they would go in there with the scope, Dr. Andrews and Dr. Montgomery, and say, you know what, Chad, things look great, we’ll rehab you back and get it strong and see what happens. But that wasn’t the case. At least now I know where I stand and what my challenge is.

On having his career flash before his eyes.
Well, now that I have the answers, my career has not flashed before me. It’s not a career­ending thing. I’m excited about the rest of my career. I’m excited to have 10 months and a full off­season to get healthy and to get back to the player I know I can be. Through those 10 days where I didn’t know, there were a lot of emotions going through my mind, mixed emotions. You just don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s why I had to make a decision to say, hey, I need to find out what exactly is going on and then we’ll make a decision from there.

On shutting off the media.
Yeah, I do that normally. Well, I do that anyhow, so it wasn’t new for me to block everything out. I definitely had to take last week and use it to get my thoughts together and talk to all of the people that I care about their opinions and get their knowledge and wisdom to figure out what I needed to do. Competitively, I wanted to do everything I could to stay in there and play, but I’ve been through this before. It was tough going through it last year. You know, after speaking with the doctors after surgery, they blatantly told me: You wouldn’t have been able to throw the ball over 30 yards if you wouldn’t have had the surgery and tried to play through it. Where as last year, it wasn’t that way. I got my strength back, I dealt with some pain, but I got my strength back. When you’re dealing with a capsular injury, it’s a little different. The stability is not quite there, so it’s a little bit different.

On if he thought he could play through the injury.
Oh, yeah. I told you they would have to cut it off for me not to play and that’s basically what they did. Yeah, I wanted to do everything I could to play. At the same time, I came to the point where I had to make a decision, not only what’s best for me, but what’s best for my team. Last year I felt like I could come back and help our team win and help get us into the playoffs. This year, I couldn’t answer that with an honest answer because I didn’t know. And I didn’t want my teammates to go in there as an offense not having confidence in their QB and their QB not having confidence in himself to be able to get the job done, especially when you have 13 games left. It wasn’t like it was at the end of the season. We’re at the beginning of the season, and a lot of different things can happen.

On the different information given and if there was a tear on his rotator cuff and capsule.
No. The labrum was not repaired. That’s where you get into different interpretations by doctors.
Obviously the capsule attaches to the labrum, but the labrum was not torn. The labrum was fully intact and looked really good. So it’s just a difference in interpretations on how you look at different things. Thank goodness I’m not in the medical business because I couldn’t deal with it, because there are so many different interpretations in trying to figure out what’s going on.

On not having stability.
They did not talk about that with me because the capsule was not torn from the bone. It was actually in between. It was in the middle of the capsule, so all they did was close it back together. So that was never discussed with me. Dr. Andrews, I talked to him this morning and he said he expected a full recovery. He wants me to take these next four to five weeks and just have active rest with it to give it a chance to heal and then go from there because time is on our side now. We have plenty of time to get it back and do what we need to do to be able to play at a high level.

On what was taken into account when surgery was decided.
Well, there’s a couple of different things when you’re injured that you take into account. First of all, you take into account how the athlete feels. Even though you may have an injury, if he feels really good, sometimes you go on that. Last year I was able to rehab back and played really good and play even though I had an injury. I didn’t know to what extent it was, but I knew it was an injury I would have to deal with at the end of the season. Secondly, you look at what the MRIs say and you take into account all of the different medical opinions and advice that you get. It was clear to me there was no definite answer on what to do. You could rehab it back. But, I play with instinct, I’m a football player and my gut instinct told me that something wasn’t right; that something needed to be; it needed to be looked at. And you look at all of the different scenarios, a scope is a non­invasive procedure, so they could stick a scope in there and nothing was wrong, pull back out, sew me up and rehab me and try it get me back to play, and if something was wrong, go in there and fix it. And at least we jumped on it early and not late. I thought that was the best decision that we could make.

On rehab all over again.
It’s déjà vu all over again. I’m starting at square one. I know what my challenge is. I’ve been through this before. But, I’m excited about it because instead of having six months to get ready, I know I have ten months and those extra four months are going to be crucial. And instead of dealing with some of the things that I was dealing with as far as precision and accuracy and timing through training camp all the way through three games, I’ll deal with those things in mini camp and OTAs. I’ll have those things answered by the time training camp rolls around instead of those being questions that they are still not even answered to this day as far as what was going on the first three games. But now those questions will be answered even before training camp.

On where he is in terms of staying competitive.
Well, there’s different ways to look at it. As far as how my shoulder felt, if you asked me how my shoulder feels, I would say very good. I would say my shoulder feels better than it has in a long time. I didn’t have any pain. There was no clicking or anything going on with movement. The strength was there. My weight room numbers were going up every week. I was getting stronger and stronger. The one thing that you can’t measure, and the one thing that takes time and only time, is precision and accuracy. Could I throw a hook route? Yeah. Could I throw a go­ route? Yeah. I could throw a go route in the post, but if I threw 10 hook routes, I couldn’t tell you where all 10 would be; some would be high, some would be low, some would be exactly where I wanted them. Those were the inconsistencies that I was dealing with. And if you listen to my answers throughout training camp and the interviews that I sat down and talked to people about, that was what I said. I said, you know, my shoulder feels great but there’s some things that I’m going to have to work through training camp and even on into the season. And my goal was by November to feel like my old self again and to feel totally confident and to know exactly what was going on. Until then, I was going to try my best to manufacture wins and put us in the best place to be able to make a playoff run. I feel like I was making progress and I was going through that process, and I knew exactly what process I was going through, but I wasn’t going to use that as an excuse. That’s not an excuse, because if you dress and you say you can play, that means you can get the job done.

On being fully recovered.
Physically it’s a matter of time. I think your fine motor skills, your nervous system, all of those things that can’t be measured with how much weights you lift or can’t be measured with a device, that just takes time. That’s just your body going through the healing process and getting your mojo back so to speak, I guess is the right word. I was just going through that process trying to work through it and win games as I was going through it and deal with it.

On if there was any discussion about him starting the season.
Yeah, the plan was, if I’m healthy, I want to play. The only way you can work through those things is to play. I don’t think just sitting back and waiting is the right thing to do. It just so happens that this is just the case of bad luck, in my opinion. I mean, every QB in the league takes the risk of getting injured every time he steps out on the field and every QB takes the risk of getting injured like I did September 25th. We all take the risk of getting blind­sided. We all take the risk of getting our arms put back or whatever it is. And in my opinion, and you guys have seen the picture, you’ve got a 300­pound guy laying on your shoulder and pulling it back, good things are not going to happen no matter if you’re the top QB in this league or a rookie or if you’re injured or not injured; something is going to have to give.

On if this injury is less severe than last time.
Yeah, my personal feelings right now are, no, I don’t feel like I did February the 9th and 10th after surgery. I do feel like I’m already a little bit further ahead than what I was then. There were a lot of different things going on February 8th when they did that surgery, a lot of things with the labrum, the cuff, the bone spurs, those type of things. This time, to me, it was clear­cut. We repaired the capsule, cleaned the cuff and we’re good to go. The rehab is going to be pretty similar. Now I’m just fortunate to have four more months and if there’s any difference in last year (I say last year, it was only February) it’s four months more of rehab, four months more of getting back to where I know I can get.

On if his shoulder will be like new or if there will always be a risk.
Well, like I said, when you play this game there’s always a risk. I think it’s pretty positive to know that the first repair held up after the hit that I took. I would be much more doubtful of the situation if I would have had the same exact surgery. But that didn’t happen.

I’m here to tell you that my shoulder was put under a lot of force when that happened. It wasn’t just a simple, knock­the­ball­out­of­my­hand. The ball didn’t come out of my hand until he let go. He held on, and my wrist was basically underneath my shoulder. That’s not a natural motion, for anybody. I think they are very positive. They know how hard I work. They know how good Dave Price is with rehab, and they know how fast I came back. It was ironic that I was talking with Dr. Andrews the Thursday before September 25th, Thursday before the Jacksonville game, and he was saying, he said, “Man, you’ve done an absolute wonderful job on getting back, and Dave has done a great job on getting you back to be able to play at an NFL level after the surgery you went through.” And he said, “Don’t get down just because you’re dealing with some precision issues and accuracy issues. That’s just going to get better with time and you’re sitting here taking hit after hit and nothing’s happening and you feel good. So that’s a positive and you just need to keep looking forward.” So, that’s what I had my mind set on doing.

On the Jets bringing in another QB.
I expect the Jets to do that. It’s only in the best interests of the organization to make sure every position is solidified. That’s why we brought Jay in this year to make sure that if something happened, he would be right there to take over, and it just so happened that he got hurt, too. That doesn’t bother me because it only makes our team better, and I’m a team guy and I want our team to win. There’s not a better Christmas present that I could have this year than to watch our team go into the playoffs and win the championship. That would just be the story of the year in the NFL. I think it would be a great story. That’s what I’m pulling for and that’s what I’m rooting for. I know that when I’m fully healthy, I can compete with anybody. The competition doesn’t care me or bother me.

On bringing Vinny Testaverde in as QB.
Well, you know, I have been fortunate to know Vinny for a long time and I know what type of QB he is. I know what type of person he is. I’m excited for him. So, this to me would be the icing on the cake for him to be able to come back and help lead our team to a championship. For all you book writers out there, you can’t write a better book than that. That’s a great story. So, that’s what I’m rooting for and I’m rooting for him, I’m rooting for our team. Our team has been through a lot, faced a lot of adversity, and to be able to bounce out of out of this situation would be a good thing for Jets fans. And it would be a good thing for our organization to show how tough we really are.

On what “active rest” means.
Active rest just basically consists of passive motion where the trainers move my shoulder for me and just a lot of modalities are used to stimulate blood flow within the shoulder, circulation within the shoulder and decrease all of the swelling. You know, not let the shoulder get stiff, but at the same time, don’t allow me to move the shoulder with my own muscles.

On his contract.
Well, I’ve paid a price for this organization and I think that Terry Bradway and Mike Tannenbaum and Coach Edwards understand that. I’ve put it out there on the line for this organization, hurt, not hurt; you name it, I’ve done it. So I don’t think that will ever be a problem, but I’ve always been the type of guy that tries to help our team win at all costs. So, I can’t control that situation right now but when that situation does come we’ll deal with it.

On when he expects to start throwing.
I mean, the six­ month mark would be in March and we don’t start off­season conditioning until April, so I’ve got plenty of time. I doubt that I will start throwing in January or February. I don’t think there’s a point to it. My gut feeling is that we’ll look at the five to six month mark and go from there. But I do want to be able to participate in mini­camps and OTAs and all of our throwing sessions. I just think that would give me more confidence and enable me to work out all of the kinks that I was going through right up until the Jacksonville game, and do things like that now in the off­season and do like most quarterbacks do and not have to deal with it.

Working on his contract in March with it being the beginning of his rehab process.
I’m not worried about that to be honest with you. I know there’s a plan in place, and I don’t know what the plan is and whenever we get to that point, we’ll discuss that. But that’s the least of my concerns right now.
On if it is harder on him knowing exactly what is in store physically.
I think it’s easier knowing what to expect and knowing what the rehab entails, knowing what the situation entails as far as what I’m going to go through. It’s harder in the fact that I’ve already gone through it once and that I have to go through it again. But I’m willing to do that and willing to do everything I can to get back to playing at the level I know I can play. I have proof of that. I know how well our team plays when I’m healthy. I know how we can win ball games when I’m healthy. So that’s my goal, that’s what I’m really excited about is to be able to go through an off­season without having to deal with injuries or anything and be able to come into the 2006 season and get myself as an athlete and this organization a chance to win and to win at a high level.

On if he ever thinks about not playing again.
No, not at all. That never comes into mind. Like I said, you’re going to have to cut it off for me not to play. This isn’t a career­threatening injury. This is something that is another roadblock for me, another bump in the road that I’ve got to get over. These are the cards that I’ve been dealt and I’ve got to deal with them. I’m confident in my abilities to deal with them and confident in my attitude that I have to I know that I’ll do the right thing and work as hard as I need to work to get back. I have proof in that and I’ve done it before. I’ve come back from a major shoulder injury, major shoulder reconstruction. This, in my opinion, wasn’t a major shoulder reconstruction and so I know I can do that.

On what was going through his mind when he first went to discuss surgery.
That’s why I made the decision to go have the arthroscopic procedure done. The MRI can only show you so much, and then after that you get a bunch of different interpretations. I think after discussing it with the doctors and with the people around me that I trust their opinions, that was the best thing to do for me and our organization to get a definite answer. And our hope was to go down there and find nothing wrong and just know that I need to rehab it back and strengthen it. But if something was wrong, we would at least know in October and not in February and have four extra months to do the right thing and to get it back to where it needs to be so that I can play at an effective level.

On if he ever told the doctors to look him in the eye and say he would be ok.
I think the only. The hardest thing I was dealing with is that I did not want to have to go through the same process that I went through in the spring, in this off­season. If there was something major going on, I wanted to find out now and let’s deal with it now to get it done. I think that’s best for me and as far as my future and my career; it’s best for our organization to know and to find out. I’ve already been down that road of hanging in there and playing and trying to “win one for the Gipper,” so to speak. That’s what’s great about the arthroscopic procedure is it’s a non­invasive procedure to where you can go in there, look at it, and if it knocks you off at all as far as your rehab process, it just knocks you off a week. So if nothing was wrong, just take an extra week and get well. Because they were down in there with the scope, but after that I would be fine. That’s why I went ahead and did it for my piece of mind, the organization’s piece of mind, for my family; get it done and move on. It’s definitely time to move on.

On the opinions of Dr. Montgomery and Dr. Andrews.
There was never any doubt in Dr. Montgomery’s mind or Dr. Andrews’ mind whether or not I could return. There was never a statement out of their mouths where they were saying, this could be career­ending. There was never that. It was just the decision and the decision that needed to be made: is it going to be dealt with now or later and what was the severity? That was the biggest question. What’s the severity of the injury? That’s why I couldn’t stand up and give an interview because I had no idea. I’d have to sit here and say “I don’t know” for every question that was answered or asked to me because I truly did not know. That’s why I went down Thursday and had it done, and now I know.

On if he’s spoken with other QB that have been through this.
I talked to Brian Griese yesterday. He talked to me a little bit about it. Obviously Jay had his left shoulder done. But I can talk to myself now that I’ve been through it. I know what to expect. I know exactly what’s going on now and what I need it do. So, it’s not like this is anything new for me, just run­of­the­mill. This is how it’s gone, how it’s always been. It’s never been easy for me as far as my career has been concerned. Why change now? Just throw another roadblock in there, conquer it and move on.

On waving the towel with his left arm.
He said I need to take it easier on that; if I keep doing that, he’s going to have to scope it, too (laughs).

On the flight to Alabama with Jay Fiedler.
Actually, our flight was going down from New York, so we had to take two different flights from LaGuardia to get down there. But if we’d went down there they would be questioning, what is going on in New York? It wasn’t a pretty site.

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