"He might be 31 years old, but he takes tremendous care of his body and he
always has. I think you're seeing a guy who still has a bunch in his tank."
Williams is taking night classes twice a week at Nova Southeastern University
in preparation to become a doctor of osteopathy after football. He envisions
playing three more seasons in the NFL, then dedicating himself to practicing
OF COURSE, if
Williams changes his mind later and wants to keep playing through his mid-30s,
he'll probably find a suitor somewhere. "In my experience there's always
another 31 teams out there," says nosetackle Jason Ferguson, 33, who's in
his first season in Miami after three with Dallas and eight with the Jets.
"In this league we're always going to have chances. If you get dropped by a
team and you've played at least 15 games, you are circled as a guy who can do
lineman Vonnie Holliday, the 11-year veteran who spent five seasons in Green
Bay and two in Kansas City before coming to Miami, "You can get a second
chance no matter what you're going through. That was the case in Dallas with
Pacman [ Jones] and, certainly here, with Chad. It's not like Chad was doing
terrible in New York. He was welcomed here with open arms because on paper he's
the best quarterback in Miami since Dan Marino."
While Favre was
recalling to the media the finer points of his two-touchdown passes—including
one to receiver Chansi Stuckey resulting from a classic Favre escape and jump
ball on fourth down—Pennington, who had taken four sacks, was being asked which
body part hurt most. The Dolphins' new quarterback pointed to his chest.
"My heart," he said. "My pride is hurt."
Pennington was on
the bitter end of the Favre saga last month, when the Jets quietly released the
32-year-old veteran after eight seasons and he signed with Miami. While Favre
is famed for his rocket throws and iron-man stamina, Pennington has exhibited a
softer toss and a tendency to get hurt. Benched last year in favor of Kellen
Clemens, he began working out full time in the off-season with Charles Petrone,
a trainer he's known since he was a high school sophomore in Tennessee.
"He was this
skinny, broke country kid with big feet and big hands," Petrone says.
"He walked up to me at the gym and said, 'I'd like to train with you.' I
was like, 'Who the hell are you?'"
As a teenager,
Pennington would leave his house at 4 a.m. to travel to Petrone's gym, more
than an hour away, in a 1985 maroon Oldsmobile, its radio locked in to country
music. He continued the workout program at Marshall and all the way through his
rookie year in New York, where he became the most accurate passer in league
history but also endured constant questions about his arm strength in the
swirling winds at the Meadowlands.
The goal of the
off-season program was for Pennington to reclaim the Jets' starting job.
"Watching him hold a clipboard, that isn't going to be Chad in this
league," Petrone says. "They had him pegged as a guy who can't push the
ball down the field. I told him, 'Let me incorporate the exercises that had you
throwing the ball 64 yards.' It's ironic that he's going to be doing it for a
"I think as human beings and as athletes, all we can ask for is a chance
and a glimmer of hope. You can look at [moving to a new team] as a challenge or
an obstacle. To me there's no greater feeling than walking into that huddle,
looking your teammates in the eyes, calling a play and walking to the line of
scrimmage together, ready to execute."
After a listless
first quarter in which he heard boos, Pennington nearly helped Miami equal its
2007 win total. Working in the no-huddle offense with less than two minutes
remaining, Pennington connected on five straight passes—short, precise,
perfectly weighted—to four targets to move the Dolphins to the Jets' 18. With
10 seconds left and Miami facing a third and 10, Pennington, under a heavy
rush, lofted a pass into coverage in the end zone. Jets cornerback Darrelle
Revis pulled it down for an interception. Moments later Pennington and Favre
embraced at midfield after the latest, and most unusual twist, in a long AFC