Miami Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington, who has suffered enough injuries in his 11-year career to be named Comeback Player of the Year in two different seasons, has decided to take a year away from the field and pursue other options — primarily a new gig as a TV analyst for the 2011 season.
"I'm actually going to take this year off, get healthy and do some work for FOX Sports," Pennington told the Charleston Daily Mail on Friday. "I'm going to evaluate things and see where I am physically."
Pennington, who will turn 35 on June 26, tore up his shoulder in the third game of the 2009 season, went through another serious shoulder injury in the first game of the 2010 season, and then tore an ACL in a basketball game. He's undergone multiple shoulder injuries through his career, and though he's never been known as a guy with a rocket arm, there has to come a time in every athlete's life when he begins to realize that it makes sense to think about something else to do.
"[The basketball injury] was just a dumb decision," Pennington told the paper. "I was in town in March, doing some [1st and 10] Foundation work and decided to play in a pickup basketball game and tore my ACL. I haven't played [football], I wasn't training real hard at the time because I was doing some shoulder rehab, and my legs weren't ready to play basketball, so it was just dumb. The last time I played a pickup basketball game was when I was at Marshall. It's one of those things."
Pennington won the Comeback Player of the Year awards in 2006 and 2008, becoming the second player in league history to do so — running back Garrison Hearst, who played primarily with the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers, doubled up on the award in 1995 and 2001.
The veteran quarterback's football intelligence is no secret to his coaches — Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano recently thought about adding Pennington to his staff, especially after watching how Pennington mentored younger quarterback Chad Henne.
His decision to step away from the game for an extended period of time had little to do with the current lockout, though he did discuss the work stoppage that may be over soon, if many rumors are to be believed. "We'll have to see what the judges say if nothing gets done before they make a decision. If they decide to lift the lockout, I imagine we'll go back to last year's deal and save our season. If they decide to keep the lockout in place, it's liable to get a little dicey. We'll have to wait and see."
Pennington was originally selected in the first round (18th overall) of the 2000 NFL draft. If he were to retire now, he'd do so with the best completion percentage (66 percent), and the 12th-highest passer rating (90.1) among qualifying quarterbacks in NFL history.
"I hang my hat on the relationships I've been able to form over the last 11 years and being able to be in the huddle and help lead the team," Pennington concluded, sounding rather final about his NFL career. "That's what playing quarterback is all about. That's what I'll miss."
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