QB undergoes surgery to repair rotator cuff

Quarterback Chad Pennington underwent Thursday surgery to repair a small tear in his right rotator cuff, and the Jets announced Friday that they "remain optimistic" that he will be ready for the 2006 season.

The surgery, performed by noted Birmingham, Ala.-based orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, was an arthroscopic procedure. Andrews performed a far more invasive surgery in February to repair the torn rotator cuff.

In the Thursday procedure, Andrews repaired rotator cuff damage, which sources said was far less severe than the original tear, and the anterior capsule and labrum. Pennington will immediately begin a rehabilitation program, the Jets said in a news release, under the supervision of the team medical staff and Andrews.

According to the team's statement, the Jets "remain optimistic that with proper rehabilitation and time for healing, Pennington will be ready for the 2006 season."

"I think he thinks in his mind that whatever it takes to come
back, he is going to do," coach Herman Edwards said. "So, that's his mind-set.
It has always been his mind-set. That's what makes him so

Edwards said the team still hasn't decided whether to put
Pennington on injured reserve, which would end his season. He plans
on meeting with Pennington and team doctor Elliot Pellman to
determine a recovery period.

When he was asked about Pennington's status for next season,
Edwards also hedged.

"I'm optimistic," Edwards said. "I've kind of talked to him,
but I'm waiting to visit with Chad when he gets here, sit down with
doc and round-table with those guys. I rather talk to Chad face to
face then through the phone."

Public optimism aside, sources continue to suggest that the team will explore some other alternatives at quarterback. The fact the damage to Pennington's right shoulder was not as bad as the first rotator cuff tear might mean that New York seeks a middle-level quarterback as an insurance policy instead of a more high-profile one. Still, the surgery is the second in eight months on Pennington's shoulder, and even with nine months to rehabilitate before the start of training camp next summer, the situation has to be viewed as dicey.

The latest injury to Pennington occurred in a Sept. 25 loss to Jacksonville, a game in which the quarterback returned after initially hurting his shoulder.

Considerable controversy ensued in the days following the injury, with the team first announcing a rotator cuff tear, and then ESPN and ESPN.com, along with several other media outlets, reporting that Andrews had apprised the franchise and Pennington that his findings were inconclusive and that the rotator cuff might not be torn.

Team officials privately acknowledged last week that they did not know the extent of Pennington's injury, as Andrews had assessed, and might not for another two or three weeks. It was believed that Pennington would embark on a treatment program prescribed by Andrews, for about three weeks, and then the shoulder would be re-examined. Andrews told the Jets and Pennington at the time he did not believe the injury was career-threatening.

Given the conflicting reports, the controversy, and the state of mind of all of the parties involved, the fact the Thursday surgery was kept under wraps is not surprising.

Beyond the football ramifications, there are financial implications for the Jets as well, and so the long-term viability of Pennington as the club's franchise-level quarterback carries significant weight in several areas.

Before the 2004 season, the team signed Pennington to a seven-year, $67 million contract extension that included bonuses totaling $23 million. According to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger, the Jets have insured a portion of the contract against injury and will get some of their money back. Pennington, who has played 16 games and two playoffs games since signing the deal before the 2004 season, received an $18 million signing bonus and another $2 million guaranteed. He's due a $3 million roster bonus in March.

By the end of this season, Pennington will have banked $22 million on the contract. He is due a roster bonus of $3 million next March and the Jets may attempt, based on the rate of recovery, to have that bonus delayed.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. To check out Len's chat archive, click hereInsider.