HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Chad Pennington appears ready to return as the New York Jets' starting quarterback, even if it's for just one more game.
With Kellen Clemens limited again in practice Thursday and recovering from a rib injury, Pennington will likely be under center when the Jets play at Tennessee on Sunday. Seven weeks after he was benched in favor of Clemens, Pennington remains confident he can lead a team on the field.
``I certainly feel that I'm a starter, absolutely,'' Pennington said. ``There's no question in my mind. I can always help someone win.''
Whether that's with the Jets after this season remains to be seen.
``When the offseason comes, we'll deal with those matters,'' Pennington said.
Clemens was thought to be New York's quarterback of the future, and that still might be the case despite his struggles. But Pennington would then be a highly paid backup with a questionable arm and a hefty contract if he sticks around.
Pennington, whose deal runs through 2010, is due a $4.8 million base salary next season. The speculation is rampant that the Jets will try to deal him in the offseason, and the last two games would be an excellent opportunity for New York to remind other teams what Pennington is capable of doing.
``I don't know what the organization's stance on that is and I'm not really concerned about it, to be honest with you,'' he said. ``I know whatever happens, something good will happen for me. I'm a confident person and I feel very good about myself as a professional and how I approach my occupation.''
Coach Eric Mangini remained undecided Thursday about his starting quarterback, but said a day earlier that the decision would be based on whether Clemens was healthy enough and prepared mentally. With just one day of practice remaining, the chances of that appear slim.
``We'll go through the week and see how it goes,'' Mangini said before practice Thursday.
Clemens was injured on his first pass against New England last Sunday, when he was hit hard by Richard Seymour and landed directly on his left shoulder. The pass was intercepted by Eugene Wilson and returned for a touchdown. Clemens left with a rib injury after the interception and was replaced by Pennington, who went 25-of-38 for 186 yards in the 20-10 loss.
Pennington insisted he hasn't thought about the future, and whether it includes the Jets.
``The season is such a whirlwind and there's so many things going on and the minute I give that too much thought, I've taken away from my teammates, I've taken away from our ability to try to win the game,'' he said. ``Those are things I'll have to sit down and really think about in the offseason and really give that some time and effort.''
Pennington disagreed with the notion that by not saying he hopes he returns to New York, he's already moved on mentally.
``Not necessarily,'' he said. ``The reason I say that is because I don't have control over that. I can sit here and give a rah-rah speech about how I want to be a Jet, but I don't have the ultimate decision on that. I can't control that. I may have influence on it, but I can't control it. I understand the business of this game.''
As much as Pennington was criticized earlier this season for not moving the offense, his numbers are better than those Clemens has put up. Pennington has thrown nine TD passes against seven interceptions, has a 67.1 completion percentage and an 85.8 quarterback rating. Clemens has completed only 52 percent of his throws, has four touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and a measly 59.0 quarterback rating that's second-worst in the league.
Despite all that, Pennington never complained or campaigned publicly to have his job back.
``Chad's been outstanding,'' Mangini said. ``He's been extremely helpful to Kellen during this time.''
Wide receiver Laveranues Coles, one of Pennington's best friends on the team, admires the way his buddy has handled himself.
``I'm glad he's getting a chance to go out there and do whatever in this game and have fun and do what he loves,'' Coles said. ``I know it was tough for him standing on the sidelines watching and not being able to compete because he's such a competitor.''

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