NEW YORK -- Chad Pennington has made a comeback from a comeback.
The Miami Dolphins quarterback won The Associated Press 2008 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award Wednesday, the second time in three years Pennington has received the honor. He also earned it in 2006 while with the New York Jets.
Pennington is the first player in the 11 seasons of the award to win it twice.
This time, Pennington was coming back from being benched in New York during the 2007 season, then discarded this summer when the Jets acquired Brett Favre. Two years ago, Pennington returned from two rotator cuff operations in eight months in 2005 and led the Jets to the playoffs.
But his work this year in guiding the Miami turnaround from 1-15 to 11-5 and AFC East champion was the best of his career.
"I think in my experience over the last nine years is that when you're winning, you feel appreciated; when you're losing, it gets a little tough," he said. "That's just part of winning and losing, especially in this league because the stakes are high, a lot of eyes watching you, both individually and as a team.
"I don't think the appreciation level ever changes, you just have to understand that there's always going to be highs and lows. And it's always to the extreme because the middle of the road doesn't sail and it's not exciting. The extremes, that's what's exciting, and that's what everybody leans on."
The Dolphins needed to lean on Pennington as a leader as much as a passer. They rallied around his work ethic, his preparation and his cool demeanor in the toughest circumstances.
"He's vital to this team, he really is," coach Tony Sparano said. "With Chad coming in here and doing what he's done right now and bringing a bunch of people together, these young players, what he's brought to them from a leadership standpoint."
Pennington received 19 votes, 13 more than quarterbacks Kerry Collins of Tennessee and Jake Delhomme of Carolina. Another quarterback, Arizona's Kurt Warner, received four votes, as did his teammate, wide receiver Anquan Boldin. So did Tampa Bay wideout Antonio Bryant.
Two of Pennington's teammates also received votes: linebacker Joey Porter (3) and running back Ronnie Brown (1).
Porter was among Pennington's biggest supporters for the award.
"He was our savior," Porter said. "He changed this whole team. He's not the one that's going to brag about it. He's just an old, humble country boy. So I'm going to brag for him."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press