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Jets' Clemens: Backup Or Third String?

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CORTLAND, N.Y. (AP) Kellen Clemens was once considered the future quarterback of the New York Jets.

He now wonders if his time with the franchise is almost up.

“There’s no secret that there’s going to be some changes,” he said Sunday after reporting for training camp, “and the Clemens family may or may not be a part of it.”

That’s because coach Rex Ryan announced Sunday that recently signed veteran Mark Brunell will enter training camp as the Jets’ No. 2 quarterback behind Mark Sanchez.

“I feel like I’m walking into camp as No. 2, and that’s my assessment,” Clemens said a few hours before Ryan’s comments. “I haven’t been told that. That’s my approach. If they want to open it up and give Mark Brunell a shot, that’s the NFL. I’ll deal with it and I’ll compete and I have a lot of confidence in my abilities to remain there.”

Clemens is starting camp on the active-physically unable to perform list because of a strained calf, but he’s not concerned about missing much time.

“They’re just going to bring me along slow,” he said. “I’ll probably be back on the field in the next couple of days. It’s nothing serious.”

Clemens is part of a logjam at the position with Sanchez, Brunell, Kevin O’Connell and Erik Ainge, who’s currently on the reserve-non football injury list with an undisclosed illness. There’s also wide receiver Brad Smith, a former college quarterback who might see more time under center this season in certain situations.

“This is how the quarterback position breaks down, in my opinion, right now: If your name is Mark, you’re safe,” Clemens said. “If your name isn’t Mark, then, who knows? It’s going to be an interesting next four weeks until this thing plays out. We’ll see. They might carry four, they might carry three and they might carry two.”

There were some thoughts that the Jets might cut Clemens after they signed Brunell, a 39-year-old former Pro Bowl quarterback who played the last two years in New Orleans.

“I’m confident that I’m going to be on a roster,” Clemens said. “As of right now, I’m on this roster and I’m excited about it and excited to go out and compete.”

Clemens said he and his agent have never asked the Jets to let him go pursue a job elsewhere, and playing for a players’ coach such as Ryan is the major reason.

“The only other side to that is that I still believe I can play,” Clemens said. “This is Mark’s team and he’s got the future with this team, and that’s understandable. I’m not banging on the door to get out of here by any means.”

Not that anyone could argue with him if he was.

The Jets drafted him out of Oregon with the 49th overall pick in 2006 with high hopes. Clemens took over as the starter for a struggling Chad Pennington midway through the next season with mixed results.

He entered the next offseason planning to compete with Pennington for the starting job, but the Jets instead traded for Brett Favre. After the Jets released Favre the following winter, Clemens appeared to be the front-runner for the starting job – until New York traded up in the draft and took Sanchez with the fifth overall pick. Sanchez then beat out Clemens in training camp last summer. Clemens started one game in place of an injured Sanchez, going 12 for 23 for 111 yards in the Jets’ 26-3 win at Tampa Bay in Week 14.

Clemens laughed when he was asked what it’s like being a human insurance policy.

“That part is getting old, but I’m getting used to the chess match or the business side of things now,” he said. “Since the end of the 2009 season, I’ve felt the effect of the business side and moving players and pieces around more than in previous years.”

Now 27, Clemens enters this season not competing for a starting job – and might not even be the team’s No. 2 quarterback.

“I want Kellen to go after it and push,” Ryan said. “Let’s see what happens, but going into it, I would say that Brunell is our No. 2 quarterback. But, I expect Kellen to compete.”

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