- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

NEW YORK This season is all about comebacks for Vinny Testaverde.
The New York Jets quarterback is back from a devastating Achilles' tendon injury that forced him to miss all but one game last season.
His Jets are back, too, sitting atop the AFC East with a 6-1 record built on a string of improbable fourth-quarter rallies.
Testaverde engineered the most incredible of those victories Monday night.
The Jets surged from a 30-7 deficit in the fourth quarter to defeat the Miami Dolphins 40-37 in overtime. Testaverde threw four touchdown passes in the final quarter and five on the night.
"This is great. We are 6-1, leading the division," Testaverde said. "We have a big game on Monday night, and we are just about to get embarrassed out there… . It's one heart, one mind. If we combine mental toughness with physical play, we'll win a lot of games."
Testaverde passed for 236 yards in a 30-point, 20-first-down fourth quarter. He called most of the plays in that quarter from a no-huddle offense against a defense that had been among the league's stingiest.
"This team is just mentally tough and strong," Testaverde said.
Testaverde has had to be just as tough and strong over the past year and a half, one of the most difficult times he has faced.

The emotion started to build as he trotted through the tunnel at Lambeau Field. By the time he reached his locker, Testaverde couldn't restrain himself. He began to cry, and he couldn't stop.
"I felt a little silly, bawling in front of my teammates," he said.
They were tears of joy, tears of sadness, tears of relief. The emotions hit him at once, and it made the Perfect Storm.
It was opening day in Green Bay, and Testaverde rallied the Jets to a 20-16 victory with a late touchdown pass. It was his first win since Jan. 10, 1999, when the Jets defeated the Jaguars in the AFC Divisional Playoffs.
His first win since rupturing his Achilles' tendon, a devastating injury that cost him virtually the entire 1999 season.
His first win since his father and closest friend, Al Testaverde, died of a heart attack.
Testaverde dedicated the 2000 season to his father, and he taped a small picture of his dad in the locker that day at Lambeau.
"Just feeling the presence of my dad and all the other things going on made it very emotional," Testaverde said.
Indeed, these past 20 months have been a roller coaster. He enjoyed a career year in 1998, came within one game of the Super Bowl, lost his father and lost the 1999 season with a career-threatening injury.
Finally, he's back. Testaverde still hasn't regained his '98 form he threw 29 touchdowns and only seven interceptions that year but he's winning.
"It has been difficult to this point, but each week I've felt better," Testaverde said.
He has come a long way.
After the Achilles' surgery, Testaverde remained around the team, even helping out as a tutor for young quarterback Ray Lucas. Once the season was over, Testaverde returned to his home in Tampa, Fla., where he intensified his rehabilitation program.
February through May were the toughest months. Testaverde worked out five hours a day in his home gym, a 1,500-square foot building on his property. It was a grueling regimen, and he later admitted there were times when he wasn't sure if he would return to his old form.
There were days when he screamed in agony and frustration and other days when he felt like crying. He read motivational books. He tried everything to keep himself going. By May, he was running.
Because of a sprained big toe on his left foot, Testaverde didn't play much in the preseason. He was rusty for the regular season and a little apprehensive about testing his surgically-repaired Achilles' for an entire game.
Then came the comeback in Green Bay, where he threw for 261 yards.
Then came another fourth-quarter comeback against the Patriots, when he threw two touchdowns in the final six minutes.
Then came a win over the Bills, highlighted by his 45-yard Hail Mary pass to cornerback/receiver Marcus Coleman at the end of the first half.
Testaverde still isn't all the way back yet, Monday's performance aside. The rust, combined with the loss of Pro Bowl wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, has hurt his effectiveness. He has thrown 11 touchdown passes against nine interceptions including three on Monday night. His 71.6 rating is 10th in the AFC, 22nd in the NFL.
In the Jets' upset of the Buccaneers in Week 4, Testaverde was benched for one series after throwing his third interception his first multi-interception game as a Jet. He returned to complete eight of nine passes, helping the Jets' miracle comeback.
"I certainly don't think he's as sharp as before he got hurt," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "He was so hot in '98. He's not at that level right now, but you can see it coming… . He's making big throws when they need it, and that's the mark of a great quarterback."
Since coming to the Jets in '98, Testaverde is 18-2 as a starter, plus a playoff win. He's come a long way. In his six-year stay in Tampa Bay, the Bucs went 28-67.
Now Testaverde is dreaming of another storybook season and a January trip to Tampa, the site of Super Bowl XXXV. In the offseason, Testaverde had to listen to the incessant chatter in Tampa as Bucs fans talked about becoming the first team to play in the Super Bowl on its home field.
"At the same time, I'm thinking, 'Hey, I'd love to play in it, too,' because that's where I started my career, that's where I live and it would be a great place to play my first Super Bowl as well," Testaverde said.
Wouldn't that be poetic symmetry?
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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