- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 1, 2009

From combined dispatches

Chad Pennington made a comeback from a comeback.

The Miami Dolphins’ quarterback won the Associated Press’ NFL comeback player of the year award Wednesday, the second time in three years Pennington has received the honor. He also earned it in 2006 with the New York Jets. Pennington is the first player in the 11 seasons of the award to win it twice.

This time, Pennington was coming back from being benched by New York in the 2007 season, then discarded this summer when the Jets acquired Brett Favre. Two years ago, Pennington returned from two rotator cuff operations in eight months in 2005 and led the Jets to the playoffs.

But his work this year in guiding Miami’s turnaround from 1-15 to 11-5 and AFC East champion was the best of his career.

“I think in my experience over the last nine years is that, when you’re winning, you feel appreciated; when you’re losing, it gets a little tough,” he said. “That’s just part of winning and losing, especially in this league because the stakes are high - a lot of eyes watching you, both individually and as a team.”

DEFENSIVE ROOKIE: Jerod Mayo firmly answered everyone who criticized the Patriots for taking him with the 10th pick in April’s draft by winning the Associated Press’ defensive rookie of the year award.

Mayo was a nearly unanimous choice, earning 49 of 50 votes from a nationwide panel of sports writers and broadcasters who cover the league. He was the outstanding performer on a linebacking corps that often struggled during New England’s 11-5 season, leading the team in tackles.

“I knew when they first called my name at the draft I was going to an organization that knew how to win,” Mayo said. “They knew how to prepare for games and things like that. So I pretty much came in trying to learn as much as I could.”

Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers got the other vote.

COWBOYS: Dallas fired special teams coach Bruce Read, making him the first assistant ousted in the wake of a disappointing 9-7 season.

Read’s special teams unit made costly gaffes, including allowing a blocked punt in overtime at Arizona that ended in a game-winning Cardinals touchdown. Breakdowns in kick coverage also beset Dallas, and Adam “Pacman” Jones fizzled as a return man.

49ERS: Coach Mike Singletary made two more adjustments to his coaching staff, firing quarterbacks coach Ted Tollner and running backs coach Tony Nathan.

On Tuesday, Singletary fired offensive coordinator Mike Martz after one season with the 49ers. Nathan also was in his first year with the team; Tollner had two stints with the club in the past decade.

TICKETS: The NFL gave the Minnesota Vikings and Arizona Cardinals extensions to sell more tickets and avoid local TV blackouts of their playoff games this weekend.

Arizona hosts Atlanta on Saturday; Philadelphia plays at Minnesota on Sunday.

The Cardinals have until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to sell their remaining 5,600 tickets. The Vikings had 11,000 tickets to sell by 4:30 p.m. Friday.

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