Testaverde settling into backup role

After sixteen seasons in the National Football League, 39,558 career-passing yards, and 244 touchdowns, Vinny Testaverde is entering the twilight of his career, at age 39, behind Chad Pennington on the depth chart. It's a role he's still growing into on a team he once lead to the playoffs.<BR><BR>

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers originally selected Testaverde with the first pick in the 1987 draft. He has been elected to the Pro-Bowl twice, once in 1996, with Baltimore, and again in 1998, as a Jet. Testaverde holds career passing yard records in Tampa Bay (14,820), and Baltimore (7,148). He has thrown more touchdown passes, for both these franchises, than any other quarterback, 78 in Tampa Bay, and 51 in Baltimore.

Testaverde, is closing in on 40,000 career-passing yards, and Herman Edwards hopes to find a way for him to reach that plateau this season.

During his reign as starting quarterback in 2002, Testaverde led the Jets to a 1-3 record. He performed admirably in the team's first game of the season, compiling a quarterback rating of 118.1, in a 37-31 victory, against Buffalo.

Testaverde struggled, along with the rest of his teammates, the following week in a 44-7 loss to the Patriots, a game where his own quarterback rating was a respectable 80.0, but the performance of his offense was unacceptable, which ultimately falls under the quarterback's responsibility.

Testaverde's third game was his worst of the year up to that point; he had a 36.2, quarterback rating, threw two interceptions, and had only 125 yards passing, on 25 attempts, against a tough Miami secondary.

He was injured the next week after suffering a hard hit that left him with a bruised right shoulder, and a pinched nerve against Jacksonville. Testaverde only attempted four passes, in this Jets loss (28-3), and was replaced by Pennington. He never regained his starting job.

That leaves one wondering, is it easy for an established veteran, former number one overall draft pick, and two-time Pro-Bowl selection such as Testaverde, to accept a back up role, when his opportunity for playing professional football at age 40, is closing so rapidly?

"It would be hard if he hadn't played so long and if he hadn't replaced guys in front of him," said Edwards." "He has done that. The great thing about Vinny is that he has learned from that (replacing other guys). Vinny has been a master of understanding that it was going to happen."

On the sidelines, Testaverde has an important role.

With the Jets offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett, upstairs in a booth during games, calling the offensive plays, Testaverde serves as a coach on the sideline.

"[Vinny] is really good with Chad, and myself standing on the sidelines talking about situations during the game, and why we want to do certain things, and why were not going to do them," said Edwards.

"He's good at telling the coaches, [a play] is going this way now, and we need to do this. I have leaned on him on a couple of occasions during games, and asked him questions. So it's constant communication. Vinny is like a coach on the field."

Although Testaverde would rather be a starter, he sees some of the benefits of being a backup to a quarterback like Pennington.

"If Chad keeps playing this way, my career can go on forever."

Note: The Jets practice time for Wednesday has been changed to 2 p.m.

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