Pennington Points

Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington on Tuesday made his first public comments since undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on Oct. 2. Speaking after an appearance at the Miami Dolphins Touchdown Club, Pennington described the extent of his game-week work with successor Chad Henne and the Dolphins' weekly offensive game plan.

Pennington, who is always one week ahead in breaking down game film of upcoming opponents, huddles with Henne every Monday to rehash the previous day's outcome. Pennington, whose two-year contract expires at season's end, also meets with the team's three healthy quarterbacks each Tuesday to share his notes and ideas for the next game.

When game day rolls around, however, Pennington is limited to exchanging serial text messages with Dolphins coach Tony Sparano and Henne, before and after the game.

For someone who is far from retired and still gets "those chill bumps up my spine" while watching Henne pull out late comebacks like Sunday's against Tampa Bay, Pennington, 33, admittedly struggles with that separation.

"When you become injured you almost become like a ghost," he said. "You're not needed or wanted on the field."

Sparano also struggles with that separation from a player he values as a resource and respects as much as any player he's ever coached. Just don't look for Sparano to relax his rule against having injured players on the sideline during games, even if Pennington could be a great sounding board for Henne.

"It's something I've really wrestled with a little bit, to be honest with you," Sparano said. "But no, I don't think so right now. Consistency is important in that decision. There have been some other injured players that I have not let down there (on the sideline). It's just part of my philosophy that it's not a good thing to do."

Sparano said in some cases it "could be a distraction" to have an injured player on the sideline, but made it clear how much he appreciates the preparatory work Pennington does each week, even as he rehabs his throwing shoulder.

"In Chad's case, he's got great knowledge," Sparano said. "Rather than ... have six different sets of rules here, there's really one rule. The players understand it. I think for the most part they respect it."

Injured linebacker Joey Porter was on the sideline Oct. 4 against the Bills, but he was a game-time decision.

Pennington said he is not offended by his sideline exclusion, even pointing to the similar distance Tom Brady kept from highly successful fill-in Matt Cassel last season in New England.

"I'm definitely involved in an indirect way," Pennington said, "and making sure if I'm needed that I can help as much as I can."

As for his rehabilitation, Pennington was scheduled to head back to Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday for a two-day follow-up visit with Dr. James Andrews and his team of physical therapists. It was Andrews who repaired the torn labrum and torn capsule Pennington suffered in the Sept. 27 loss at San Diego, but this process has been easier so far than the previous two times Pennington had his shoulder repaired.

If the plan holds, Pennington should be throwing again by early January and ready to work out for interested teams by March 1. Should one of those teams be the Dolphins, he said, that would be ideal, regardless of his role. Pennington and Chad Henne enjoy a close relationship, unlike many previous quarterbacks who have gone through a similar dynamic.


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