So much for Camp Camelot. The Jets suddenly find themselves in Camp Controversy.
Jets coach Bill Parcells, presiding over what had been a relatively peaceful training camp, erupted in anger Wednesday at repeated questions about his decision to start veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde ahead of Glenn Foley in Saturday's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens.
"I'm finished with it," the exasperated coach said. "I've been listening to this for two years from you guys."
Shortly afterward, Parcells left the interview room after being asked whether he was bringing limping defensive end Anthony Pleasant back onto the field too soon. Pleasant, who returned Tuesday, missed two days of practice sessions with a sprain of his right ankle, which he fractured two seasons ago with Baltimore.
"I'm not rushing him back," Parcells snapped. "Don't you tell me what I'm doing. I'm listening to my doctors. You don't know about what we're doing here."
"You look at my history as a coach. I've never rushed anybody back. I don't inject players; I don't make them play with injuries they can't play with."
Both Pleasant and Testaverde are expected to see action with the first teams on Saturday as the Jets continue to try to find answers at a variety of positions. At quarterback, where Foley was named the starter in the wake of veteran Neil O'Donnell's ouster in June, Parcells reiterated Wednesday that he simply wants to give Testaverde some action against tougher opposition.
"I'm not doing it to stir the pot," Parcells said, "I'm doing it to get the guys in against a higher level of competition. That's it."
Additionally, it's likely that cornerback Marcus Coleman, fullback Jerald Sowell and tight end Fred Baxter could start after seeig second-team action a week ago in a 29-15 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the team's preseason opener.
"We combine different lineups of people together all the time," Parcells said. "That's really all there is to it."
Testaverde, for his part, admits that he welcomes the opportunity to close the gap on Foley, who has rebounded somewhat from a sluggish start at camp. The 12th-year veteran, waived by Baltimore on June 2, said that he realizes that he's not expected to get the starting nod when the Jets open the season on Sept. 6 at San Francisco.
"I'm just confident in my ability to play quarterback for this team or any other team," said Testaverde. "One of the things I tell myself, after everything I've heard about coach Parcells, is I'm not going to try to figure him out."
"To go in with the first unit, it's my first opportunity to do that. I'm not projected to be the starter in the opening game, but if sometime during the season I get the opportunity to start, for whatever reason, I have to be ready."
Foley, who had been surprised Tuesday when told that Testaverde would start, was calmer on Wednesday as he considered Parcells' game plan. It was only last season, after all, when he was battling to steal playing time from O'Donnell.
"He told me flat to my face, `Now, you're the other guy -- now you're Neil,'" Foley said of a conversation he had with Parcells early in training camp. "I witnessed firsthand everything that happened last year, so I'm pretty hardened to the situation. I understood it was going to be like this. It's an every-week thing. This isn't a one-shot controversy deal."
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