Chad Pennington has yet to start for an entire season, but all of a sudden he is a grizzled veteran compared with the other quarterbacks on the New York Jets' roster.
With Vinny Testaverde gone, the 28-year-old Pennington has become the elder statesman. Brooks Bollinger and Ricky Ray are learning behind him and have even less experience than Pennington, who has made 21 career starts.
"Being called the veteran quarterback with younger guys underneath me is a weird feeling," Pennington said. "I've always felt like I was the young guy. It's a different role for me but at the same time everything will be okay."
The Jets can only hope everything will be fine. It certainly wasn't a year ago, when Pennington broke his left wrist in the preseason. Testaverde, in his 17th season at the time, started the first seven games and the Jets won just two. Testaverde never fit coordinator Paul Hackett's style, and he along with the rest of the team struggled. The Jets released Testaverde in June, and he signed with the Dallas Cowboys.
That leaves Bollinger as the backup. A sixth-round pick last season, Bollinger was behind Testaverde while Pennington recovered. He has never played in an NFL game. Ray also has never played in an NFL game, signing with the Jets in February after playing in the Canadian Football League last season.
"I'm looking forward, I'm not looking back," Bollinger said. "I am getting myself prepared to win those reps and be sure that I am able to function and make plays."
Bollinger is more mobile than Pennington. He holds the Wisconsin school record for quarterbacks with 518 carries for 1,767 yards and went 30-12 as a starter. But he has to work on his arm strength and comfort level in the system.
Though he was able to learn from Testaverde and Pennington last season, nothing beats getting repetitions in practice and games. So far in three days of drills, Bollinger hasn't looked sharp. On Sunday afternoon, he had some wobbly passes and didn't come close to completing others.
"He's pressing a little bit," Coach Herman Edwards said. "He's going to be okay, but he has to go through some growing pains, too, learn how to play quarterback, he's got to get the timing with the receivers. I can remember we talked about Chad in a similar situation. He figured it out okay."