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Pennington's ankle improving; Jets QB hoping 'to be available'

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Chad Pennington stood on the sideline last Sunday with his helmet on, yearning to jog onto the field and throw a pass for the New York Jets. He's hoping his injured right ankle has healed enough for him to be in the huddle this weekend against the Miami Dolphins.

"My goal is to be available," Pennington said Wednesday. "I'm going to prepare just like I always prepare and work just as hard as I always have worked. Nothing has changed for me as far as my mind-set and my focus and what I'm trying to do. That's my job as a player and my goal. I'll leave the decision up to coach."

Although he was listed as limited in practice on the injury report Wednesday, Pennington looked close to normal during the half-hour window the media are allowed to witness. The limp that was extremely noticeable a week ago was barely there. Pennington also dropped back and put his full weight on his right ankle during passing drills.

"I worked and prepared extremely hard on an injury that normally takes some time," Pennington said. "It's still a process, something that you have to go through and work through all those things. My goal was to be available on Sunday and I was available. I left it up to coach to make that decision."

Kellen Clemens started in the Jets' 20-13 loss at Baltimore and Pennington was the No. 2 quarterback, saying he was ready to play if needed. Coach Eric Mangini said Monday that despite Clemens' impressive play in the fourth quarter of that game, Pennington is still his quarterback -- as long as he's healthy.

"We'll see here today," Mangini said before practice on Wednesday. "We're ahead of where we were last week, obviously. We'll make sure that we're getting enough reps so that he can be prepared, but not going so far, especially early in the week, that he has to scale back on Thursday or Friday. So we'll monitor that. We'll see how that goes."

Pennington was injured when he was sacked in the third quarter of the season-opening 38-14 loss to New England. He missed one play, but came back on New York's next series and led the Jets to a touchdown before pulling himself late in the fourth quarter.

"Every game, I want to be there," he said. "I've experienced being on the sideline before with injuries and that's a horrible feeling because you can't help. You can't help your teammates physically or mentally on the field, and that's where it counts the most. Any time you are injured it's a difficult thing to go through as a competitor. Any time I feel like I can be available and help us win, I want to do that."

Mangini said the team will adjust the number of snaps Pennington and Clemens take with the first-team offense during the week, based on Pennington's health.

Clemens was 19-of-37 for 260 yards a touchdown and two interceptions in his first NFL start, and was impressive in the final 15 minutes.

He helped cut a 20-3 deficit to seven points in the fourth quarter and took the Jets to the Baltimore 7-yard line before Ray Lewis intercepted a deflected pass in the end zone with 1:04 left. Based on that performance, some fans believed the Jets should consider giving Clemens more playing time.

"It's not disappointing," Pennington said. "I'm very confident in my ability to help us win and to play in this league. I feel good about it."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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