Will Chad Pennington Ever Play in the NFL Again?

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Will Chad Pennington Ever Play in the NFL Again?
(Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

Chad Pennington started his collegiate career as part of the “Thundering Herd” of Marshall University where he was the fourth string QB, but ended up leading Marshall to the Division I-AA championship game as a freshman. Pennington’s stock rose during his senior season when he was the starting QB for an undefeated Marshall team. With the help of teammate Randy Moss, Pennington set school records in several categories and finished fifth in the Heisman voting. 

Pennington was drafted by the New York Jets in the first round and was the eighteenth overall pick in the 2000 draft. During the 2000 and 2001 season, Pennington was the backup QB to Vinny Testaverde. 

After four games into the 2002 season, Testaverde was replaced by Pennington who led the Jets from a 1-4 start, to a final record of 9-7 and the AFC East division championship. While he only started 11 games, he ended the season with 3,120 yards, 22 touchdowns, and six interceptions. 

Unfortunately, during the 2003 preseason, Pennington suffered his first injury of his young career as he fractured his left hand and was forced to miss six games. This would not be his last injury, as he injured his torn right rotator cuff halfway through the 2004 season and he was not the same upon his return later that season.

Pennington had surgery for his latest injury in February 2005. He started the 2005 season off badly and there were concerns that he came back too soon and the rotator cuff was not fully healed. In a Week Three matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pennington suffered another injury to the same rotator cuff that was surgically repaired in the offseason. He had surgery once again in October 2005 with the thought being that he would have more time to heal in preparation for the 2006 season.

Pennington entered the 2006 season feeling strong and ready to prove all of the naysayers wrong.  He did just that as he started the season with back-to-back 300-yard games and led the Jets to the playoffs where they lost to the New England Patriots. This was the first season since 2002 where he played a full 16 game season and he set career highs in completions, attempts, and passing yards.As a result of his solid season, he was awarded the Comeback Player of the Year award.

During the 2007 season, Pennington was injured once again suffering a high ankle sprain that would limit his opportunities and resulted in being benched in favor of Kellen Clemens. He was traded in 2008 to the Miami Dolphins where he had one of his best seasons as a pro and was once again awarded the Comeback Player of the Year award. 

The Dolphins has high hopes for Pennington for the 2009 season, but during the Week Three game against the San Diego Chargers, he suffered a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder. While it remains to be seen if he will be out for the season, I have to wonder if he has played his last NFL game.

During his ten year career, he has suffered through many injuries, only to come back and play at a respectable level.  While there is always a chance that he could have surgery and return for his 11th season, I think his run is nearing its end as this injury may be a fatal blow to any chance of returning to the game that he loves so much. 

If Pennington does decide to hang up his cleats for good, he has nothing to be ashamed of as he has had a solid career. Over the course of his ten year career, he has completed 1,631/2,469 passes for 17,804 yards and 72 touchdowns.  More importantly, he is currently the all-time leader for completion percentage with 66.1%. While he is not on the level of players such as John Elway, Dan Marino, or Joe Montana, he has still established himself as a quarterback that young players should emulate.

Would I like to see Pennington come back for one last season? Absolutely, but I think that the chances of that happening are slim to none. It will be a shame as no player wants to end his career being helped off the field due to an injury.

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