Vinny Testaverde, who turns 39 in November, studies the little chart that has been created for his benefit. It notes the achievements of every professional quarterback after his 38th birthday.
John Unitas, starter on a playoff team at 38 but injured, hurt again at 39 while playing out the string, and finally benched in San Diego at age 40.
Dan Marino, turned 38 in September of his final season. Missed five games and had the lowest rating (67.4) of his career.
Well, neither of those will do.
"Here, this one," Testaverde says, pointing to the name of John Elway, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXIII at 38. "And this one," he says, finding Warren Moon, who was effective as a starter until he was 41. "And how about Phil?" he says, singling out the Giants' Phil Simms, who had a highly productive year for an 11-5 team at 38.
See? Quarterbacks have been successful at 38, and beyond, and Testaverde believes he is ready to join their ranks. "I'll tell you the difference between me and the quarterbacks of the past," he says. "None of them was as dedicated to lifting as I've been. Maybe Elway and Marino did it toward the end of their careers, but I started young, actually in high school. I used to lift in my best friend's garage. I always wanted to be strong. People talk about age and I snicker. They never did what I did."
But old quarterbacks are more injury-prone. "In 2000, the season after I tore my Achilles tendon, I was a little cautious dropping back," Testaverde says. "Now I'm not. I'm not cautious about anything."
In March he underwent surgery to remove a benign tumor from his left foot. He missed the Jets' off-season workouts, so for the first time his backup, Chad Pennington, a first-round draft choice two years ago, took all the snaps with the first unit. Then on July 30, the fifth day of training camp, Testaverde jammed his right thumb. It was announced as a one-to-two-week injury, but he was back at practice a few days later. It was as if he were saying, This is my job, and I'm not giving it up.
So there are fingers crossed all around. Starting a season with a 38-year-old quarterback with a history of injuries and a backup who has thrown only 25 passes in his NFL career is risky. Plus, at the end of last season Testaverde and offensive coordinator Paul Hackett frequently pointed fingers at each other and definitely were not on the same page.
The offense could find a new weapon in Santana Moss, last year's first-round draft selection. A wideout who can get downfield, Moss played in only five games last season because of injuries, but he's healthy this year. There are two new starters on an offensive line that lost its coach, Bill Muir, to the Bucs. The one constant is running back Curtis Martin, who at 28 had his finest season as a pro last year. Over the last seven seasons he has more carries (2,343) than any player in the league.