Third arm injury threatens Pennington's career

Bell Breaks Down Pennington's Injury (0:44)

Stephania Bell talks about the severity of Chad Pennington's shoulder injury (0:44)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

Forget the season. Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington's career may be over.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports the preliminary diagnosis for Pennington is a torn capsule in his throwing shoulder.

Pennington will seek a second opinion from renowned sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews, but if the initial finding holds up, then Pennington's livelihood will be at stake.

Pennington suffered the injury in Sunday's 23-13 loss to the San Diego Chargers in Qualcomm Stadium. Andrews twice before has performed surgery on Pennington's right shoulder to repair the rotator cuff.

"It's too soon to say with any conviction, but it's not encouraging just from the cumulative trauma," ESPN injury expert Stephania Bell told me of Pennington's prognosis. "It now becomes the third significant injury to a thrower's shoulder.

"When you have an elite thrower, anything that threatens the integrity of your rotator cuff or any of the main stabilizing structures -- which include the capsule and the labrum -- you threaten everything."

Imagine what happens when you yank a drumstick off a chicken thigh. You pull until there's separation at the joint, but the tear isn't clean. Surrounding tissues rip apart. The shiny white matter on the tip of the bone is the capsule, which protects the joint and provides stability.

"I highly doubt he had an MRI with a capsular tear and nothing else," Bell said, referring to Mortensen's report. "We don't know what other tissue damage or swelling or bruising he has. At the very least, you're going to have an aggravated rotator cuff."

Pennington doesn't have any job security after this season. He signed a two-year deal with the Dolphins last summer soon after the New York Jets cut him to make room for Brett Favre.

The Dolphins chose not to give Pennington an extension despite having a career year. He helped them erase the memory of a dismal 1-15 season by guiding them to 11 victories and the AFC East title.

He started all 16 games for only the second time. He completed 67.4 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards and 19 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He was voted Comeback Player of the Year for a second time and was runner-up to Peyton Manning for league MVP.

Unless the reported original diagnosis was wrong, second-year backup Chad Henne will assume Pennington's post for Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills in Land Shark Stadium. The Dolphins drafted Henne in the second round last year and drafted quarterback Pat White in the second round this year.

Dolphins coach Tony Sparano was loath speak about Pennington in the past tense Monday.

"The leadership thing can’t be water off a ducks back," Sparano said of losing Pennington for an extended period. "That to me is a major issue.

"Just the experience of a guy of his caliber in the huddle like that, he’s our offensive leader and has been. We’ll wait and see. We’ll see what happens, and we’re not sure yet. So hopefully we have him.”