The New York Jets signed veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde today, with starter Chad Pennington having been told Monday that he'll miss the rest of the season and backup Jay Fiedler also sidelined for an extended period.
Coach Herman Edwards said that Testaverde, who turns 42 in November, will be the Jets' backup quarterback Sunday in Baltimore behind new starter Brooks Bollinger. The team plans to sign a third quarterback later today, said Edwards, who indicated that he doesn't expect Pennington or Fiedler to play again this season. Both injured quarterbacks were scheduled to be examined today in Birmingham by orthopedist James Andrews.
"It's tough," Edwards said during an afternoon news conference. "I've never been in a situation where you lose your one and two quarterbacks. . . . I hope this doesn't happen to any coach ever, ever, ever. It isn't a lot of fun. I don't wish this on any coach. It tests your faith."
Testaverde played for the Jets between 1998 and 2003 before spending last season in Dallas as the Cowboys' starter in a failed reunion with Coach Bill Parcells. He made 15 starts and threw for 3,532 yards for Dallas last season. But he had more interceptions (20) than touchdown passes (17), and the Cowboys went 6-10. They signed another former Parcells pupil, Drew Bledsoe, in the offseason to take over as their starter.
Edwards said he has remained close to Testaverde, and the quarterback called Edwards on Monday evening just before Edwards was planning to telephone Testaverde.
"I said, 'Why'd you wait so long?' . . . He called me first [but] I knew it was coming," Edwards said.
Edwards said he told Testaverde that he wanted to ponder the situation overnight before giving an answer. This morning, he told Testaverde that he was the choice. Testaverde joined the Jets and had an approximately two-hour meeting today with first-year offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, according to Edwards. Edwards said he'd spoken to Heimerdinger at length Monday about what he thought the Jets would have to do to tailor their offense to Testaverde.
"He's in his comfort zone here," said Edwards, who once benched Testaverde in favor of Pennington. "He knows me. . . . He can still throw the ball. . . . It's the right fit. . . . He has a gift. Vinny can get up at 3 o'clock in the morning and throw the 'out' as good as anybody."
Testaverde will be reunited with Edwards and some veteran teammates, but must find a way to fit in with the Jets' newer, younger players.
"There are some guys -- and Vinny realizes it, he's been gone two years -- that the only thing they know about Vinny is from the Madden [video] game, they're so young," Edwards said. "And that's the first Madden game."
Edwards said his club explored possible trades but found other teams' asking prices to be too high, given the Jets' dire need. Jets officials were to look at quarterbacks in two separate workout sessions today, Edwards said. He declined to name the quarterbacks on hand, but the list of those under consideration apparently included Doug Johnson, Jesse Palmer and Jonathan Quinn.
Edwards said the other quarterback the team will sign could be placed on the practice squad. That might mean it will be Andy Hall, a young quarterback formerly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Pennington plans to seek a second opinion from Andrews before accepting the diagnosis of the Jets' medical staff -- that he has another tear of the rotator cuff in his right shoulder. If Andrews confirms that diagnosis, Pennington could be facing another operation on his throwing shoulder and his football future would be uncertain. He re-injured the shoulder, on which he underwent offseason surgery for a rotator-cuff tear, during this past Sunday's overtime loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Pennington's availability for the 2006 season could be put in doubt by another major shoulder surgery. There is plenty at stake for the Jets and the 29-year-old Pennington, both competitively and financially: Just before the 2004 season, the Jets signed Pennington to a seven-year, $64.2 million contract extension that included $23 million in bonus money.
Edwards said he had an emotional talk with Pennington on Monday, and predicted that Pennington will return from the injury successfully.
"It's harder for me because of who the person is," Edwards said. " . . . It was a tough evening for Chad Pennington and myself [Monday] night. . . . It was tough. He's a little down. He's hurt, no doubt about it. . . . It's a tough road to travel. [But] I think if anyone can do it, it's Chad Pennington. . . . It's like talking to your son. What do you tell him? I don't know. What do you tell a guy? It's a sad day today, but it'll get better."
Some in the league wonder whether Pennington's shoulder had fully healed. The lack of velocity on his throws in the early stages of this season produced questions about the soundness of the shoulder and about his arm strength following an offseason and preseason of being brought back slowly. He was replaced by Fiedler when he got hurt Sunday, but re-entered the game after Fiedler suffered a shoulder injury of his own.
Edwards said he had no second thoughts about how Pennington's rehabilitation was handled.
"We followed what the doctors told us to do. . . . We did it correctly," Edwards said. "We did it by the numbers. That's all you can do."
Fiedler also underwent an MRI exam Monday, and the preliminary indications were that he'll be sidelined for six to eight weeks because of a shoulder dislocation. The Jets signed Fiedler, a former starter in Miami, as a free agent in the offseason after he was released by the Dolphins. He was to be an insurance policy in case Pennington's shoulder wasn't sound, but now he's joining Pennington on the shelf.
The Jets don't have to place either quarterback on the injured reserve list immediately because they already had available roster spots, Edwards said.
Bollinger has played one game and thrown nine passes in regular-season play in the NFL. The Jets began the season with Super Bowl aspirations after they finished last season with an excruciating near-miss in a loss at Pittsburgh in an AFC semifinal. But they have a record of 1-2. Tailback Curtis Martin has an ailing knee, and now they will be without their top two quarterbacks. If the competitive portion of their season isn't over already, it soon could be.
"There are 13 games left," Edwards said. "We have to have a little spirit, and we have to go play."
R. Harrison Done For Season
New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is notoriously secretive when it comes to injury information, but the team probably will acknowledge today what was obvious to just about anyone who saw safety Rodney Harrison injure his left knee during Sunday's triumph at Pittsburgh -- that Harrison will miss the remainder of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
According to an NFL source, Harrison tore the ACL and two other ligaments in the knee -- the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament -- when Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson was knocked into the side of his left leg on a first-quarter running play. Harrison, 32, will undergo surgery in a few weeks, after the swelling in his knee subsides, and then begin rehabilitation toward possibly resuming his NFL career.
Harrison was the emotional leader of the New England defense, and his loss will be a major blow to a unit still struggling to adjust to life without cornerback Ty Law, who was released in the offseason, and linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who is sitting out the season after suffering a stroke in February.
Patriots left tackle Matt Light also could be lost for the season. He suffered a broken bone in his right leg, just below the knee, during the Pittsburgh game.
Guss Scott replaced Harrison on Sunday, and rookie Nick Kaczur filled in for Light. . . .
The fallacy would be to say that officials cost the Steelers the game Sunday.
The NFL acknowledged Monday that the officials made a clock-management error during the game that lengthened the contest by 52 seconds. Mike Pereira, the league's director of officiating, said the officials improperly reset the clock to 14 minutes 51 seconds instead of 13:59 after a penalty early in the fourth quarter. The Patriots won on a 43-yard field goal by kicker Adam Vinatieri with one second left, having moved into position for Vinatieri's kick after the Steelers tied the game with a touchdown with 1:21 to go.
But it's not as simple as saying that the Patriots wouldn't have had enough time for their game-winning drive without the extra 52 seconds. The mistake occurred with so much time remaining that the rest of the game would have played out differently without the additional time. The two teams probably would have used their timeouts differently, and would have taken different approaches to clock management.
The Patriots, in fact, ended up wasting time at the end of their final drive to run down the clock before Vinatieri's kick. They reached the Pittsburgh 31-yard line with 57 seconds left. . . .
The Eagles likely will be without kicker David Akers for at least a week because of a torn right hamstring muscle, Coach Andy Reid said Monday. The club probably will promote kicker Todd France from their practice squad this week.
Reid said he expects quarterback Donovan McNabb to play Sunday at Kansas City despite a bruised shin being added to the list of injuries plaguing him, along with a bruised chest and a strained abdominal muscle. . . .
Tennessee tailback Travis Henry was suspended for four games by the league for a violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
The Arizona Cardinals will be without quarterback Kurt Warner for Sunday night's game against the San Francisco 49ers in Mexico City. That takes even more luster off the first NFL regular-season game to be played on foreign soil, matching the winless Cardinals with the one-victory 49ers.
Warner suffered a strained groin muscle during last Sunday's loss to Seattle. Former starter Josh McCown replaced him, and likely will start against the 49ers. . . .
The 49ers will be missing cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who is to undergo ankle surgery and be sidelined for two to six weeks. . . .
There again is dissension within the ranks of the New York Giants about the rigid ways of Coach Tom Coughlin. Coughlin benched wide receiver Plaxico Burress for the Giants' first two offensive series in Sunday night's loss at San Diego, apparently for being late to two team meetings last week. That approach drew public criticism Monday by tight end Jeremy Shockey, who told reporters that Burress perhaps should have been punished in a way that didn't hurt the entire team. Burress had five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown in the game, and leads the Giants with 15 receptions in three games this season after being signed to a six-year, $25 million contract via free agency in the offseason. . . .
Belichick's secretiveness about injuries apparently even extends to refusing medical help from the opposing team's trainer during a game. When Light was injured Sunday, Steelers trainer John Norwig ran on the field to assist, a standard practice in the NFL when a player appears to be seriously hurt. Belichick came on to the field to get Norwig away from his player. . . .
The Cowboys are going to stay in the Bay Area this week and practice at San Jose State University. They played at San Francisco last weekend and are playing Sunday at Oakland. . . .
New Orleans safety Jay Bellamy will miss the remainder of the season because of a rotator-cuff injury in his right shoulder that will require surgery. . . .
The Saints announced Tuesday that 15,590 tickets remained available for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills in San Antonio. It is the first of three home games that the Saints are scheduled to play this season at the Alamodome.
Cadillac To Keep Running
Rookie tailback Carnell (Cadillac) Williams has had a spectacular first three NFL games, amassing a league-leading 434 rushing yards for the unbeaten Buccaneers. The only concern is whether the Buccaneers are risking wearing him out with a laborious workload. Williams has had 88 carries in three games, including 37 (for 158 yards) in this past Sunday's 17-16 triumph at Green Bay.
Coach Jon Gruden said during a news conference he's not overly concerned at this point about the issue.
"We wouldn't be putting him in these situations if we didn't know he could do it," Gruden said. "It's not a coincidence he's playing his best football late in the game. So, as long as he can take it, we will continue to give him these opportunities. If the situation has us with the lead [and] we're in the fourth quarter . . . you are going to see more Cadillac Williams, yes."
The Broncos' dismantling of the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night in Denver came with a price. Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey left the game after suffering what the team called a strained hamstring muscle. Bailey is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam to determine the extent of the damage. He already was playing with a dislocated shoulder.