Clemens' rib injury clouds Jets' QB situation

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Kellen Clemens or Chad Pennington? Well, Eric Mangini isn't quite sure just yet.

The New York Jets coach was noncommittal Monday about who his starting quarterback will be Sunday at Tennessee, saying he'll have to see how Clemens' injured rib feels.

"What I'm going to do is just look at that throughout the course of the week," Mangini said. "With any injury, you're probably not going to know until game time."

Mangini added fuel to the speculation that perhaps Clemens isn't the Jets' long-term answer at quarterback when he declined to say the former second-round pick would start if he's healthy.

"What I'm saying is I'm just going to have to evaluate it throughout the course of the week in terms of his health," he said. "I'll look at it, reps, things like that."

Clemens was injured on his first pass against New England on Sunday, when he was hit hard by Richard Seymour and landed directly on his left shoulder. The pass was intercepted by Eugene Wilson and returned for a touchdown.

The team announced during the game that Clemens suffered a rib injury and his return was probable. Clemens never came back in as Mangini opted to go with Pennington the rest of the way -- except for a handful of option plays with Brad Smith under center -- in the 20-10 loss.

"At that point, I just made the decision that Chad, who isn't dealing with an injury situation, was better for us," Mangini said. "I thought he did a really nice job."

Pennington finished 25-of-38 for 186 yards, but couldn't get the Jets into the end zone.

"I thought Chad did a really nice job in the role that he has," Mangini said. "To have limited reps and come in and execute all the different things we asked him to execute, there were quite a few packages that we had, in order to try to get some things going offensively. That, to me, is classic Chad."

Mangini said Clemens was having tests done Monday on the rib, and said the quarterback's non-throwing shoulder wasn't injured as far as he knew. When asked if Clemens has a broken rib, Mangini was typically evasive.

"He has a rib," Mangini said.

When asked if he has more than that, Mangini smiled and offered only: "I think he has multiple. I'm not sure how many. Didn't take that class in college."

Since taking over as the starter six weeks ago, Clemens has struggled mightily. He has completed only 52 percent of his throws and has four touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. Even more alarming, Clemens' 59.0 quarterback rating is the second-worst in the league. Only San Francisco's Trent Dilfer is worse at 55.1.

"I think Kellen has done a lot of good things and there's a lot of things that he's still growing into and learning about with experience," Mangini said. "That's common with any young player. Didn't really get to see very much of him yesterday. Just a couple of plays."

With two games left in the season, the Jets don't have much time to see if Clemens can handle the role of being a starting quarterback. If Clemens is healthy enough to play, the Jets would have eight more quarters to evaluate him.

"It's always important for us to play the best players, look at the situation for the best players that week, and that doesn't change," Mangini said. "When you're dealing with a situation like this, every injury is different, so you have to see how that plays out. That's what we're doing, gathering information and let the week unfold."

Whoever starts at Tennessee might have to be without wide receiver Laveranues Coles, who has been struggling with a high left ankle sprain and reinjured it in a freak accident Saturday at the team hotel.

"I don't know all the specifics," Mangini said.

Coles told reporters after the game that as he sat on the trainer's table, it fell directly on the ankle. He was on the field for one play against the Patriots before shutting it down for the day.

"We'll see where he is and evaluate it," Mangini said. "L.C. wants to play and I appreciate that."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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