Chad Pennington to skip next season
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The labor strife between the NFL's players and owners wasn't lost on free agent quarterback Chad Pennington, even if the former Marshall University star won't play this season.
Pennington spoke in front of more than 150 fans, friends and family during the Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Thursday.
The first-round pick of the New York Jets in 2000 is spending part of the summer vacationing in a motor home, opting out of flying to his engagement at the Lawndale Lane location.
In fact, he was caught in traffic in Bluefield, but arrived in plenty of time for the 7:30 p.m. dinner.
"I'm actually going to take this year off, get healthy and do some work for Fox Sports," said Pennington, the NFL's only two-time Comeback Player of the Year.
"I'm going to evaluate things and see where I am physically."
He's had four shoulder injuries, a fractured hand and an ankle sprain - all suffered in games, during his 11-year NFL career. He began the 2009 season as the Dolphins' starter in his second year in Miami, but tore his shoulder capsule in the third game of the season on Sept. 27. His 2010 season was ended on the first play of the first game when he suffered a severe shoulder injury.
"It seems like I majored in that (injury comebacks)," said Pennington, who will turn 35 years old on June 26. "I'm trying to get away from that. It seems to follow me around."
His latest affliction came off the field - while playing pickup basketball - but was a microcosm of his post-Marshall career, during which he broke records for passing yardage (13,143), completions (1,026) and attempts (1,619) in four seasons.
In the NFL, he has thrown for 17,823 yards with 102 touchdowns and 64 interceptions, but has played only two full seasons - 2006 and 2008 when he was Comeback Player of the Year - and averaged only eight games per season during his career. He's the league's all-time leader in completion percentage (66 percent) among quarterbacks with a minimum of 1,500 attempts.
"(Playing basketball) was just a dumb decision," Pennington said. "I was in town in March, doing some (1st and 10) Foundation work and decided to play in a pickup basketball game and tore my ACL. I haven't played (football), I wasn't training real hard at the time because I was doing some shoulder rehab, and my legs weren't ready to play basketball, so it was just dumb.
"The last time I played a pickup basketball game was when I was at Marshall. It's one of those things."
He had surgery on April 7, and as of Thursday - 10 weeks after knee surgery - Pennington had no noticeable setbacks.
During his time off, Pennington will work with Sam Rosen as an NFL analyst for Fox Sports, if the players and owners can come together and save the season.
Lockout or no lockout, Pennington wasn't playing this year, but is keeping a keen eye on the proceedings.
"We'll have to see what the judges say if nothing gets done before they make a decision," said Pennington, whose NFL peers are meeting in Maryland. "If they decide to lift the lockout, I imagine we'll go back to last year's deal and save our season. If they decide to keep the lockout in place, it's liable to get a little dicey. We'll have to wait and see."
Ironically, the lockout was a good sign for Pennington's future, which was in doubt after multiple health issues.
"It would've been (good for me) if I wouldn't have had the knee injury," Pennington said. "I planned to make a fourth comeback, but it doesn't make sense to try to rehab a shoulder injury a fourth time on top of an ACL injury. I'm at a point of my career where I haven't been patient before, I'm going to be patient now."
No matter what decision Pennington makes after rehabilitation on his shoulder and knees, he feels "blessed" for the opportunity to play in the NFL.
"I hang my hat on the relationships I've been able to form over the last 11 years and being able to be in the huddle and help lead the team," Pennington said. "That's what playing quarterback is all about. That's what I'll miss."
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4837.