NEW YORK – Let’s call it Comeback Weekend for the Jets.

On Friday night, Chad Pennington eased many nerves about his surgically repaired shoulder with a strong showing in his preseason debut. On Sunday, cornerback Ty Law is expected to practice with the team for the first time – his first practice with anybody in nearly 10 months.

While Pennington provided glimpses of his old form, causing near-giddiness among his teammates, it probably will take Law quite some time before he can do the same on a consistent basis.

No one in the organization has said it publicly, but the feeling around the team is that Law – he of the surgically repaired left foot – may need several games before he’s 100 percent. Even then, there’s no guarantee, considering the severity of his injury (a mid-foot fracture last Oct. 31).

From all indications, Law hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his off-the-field conditioning since signing Aug. 8, but the fact it has taken him 13 days to get practice-ready serves as proof that he’s involved a long, painstaking recovery.

Some perspective: When an out-of-shape Chester McGlockton signed at the start of training camp in 2003, he needed 16 days before he was cleared to practice – and he was roughly the size of City Island when he reported (an estimated 375 pounds).

It shouldn’t take a 200-pound cornerback that long to get in shape, but the Jets, mindful of Law’s injury, aren’t pushing him. Herm Edwards confirmed yesterday that Law will practice today, adding that he expects the four-time Pro Bowl selection to play Friday night against the Giants.

The Jets are hoping that Law can galvanize the young secondary, easily the team’s biggest concern after two preseason games, but it would be naive to expect him to play like the Law of old at the outset.

Physical condition aside, Law also is learning a new defensive system, with terminology that is causing some confusion. Law said he’s spending more time in the classroom than some of the rookies.

The secondary, sans veterans Ray Mickens, Jon McGraw and Reggie Tongue (all sent packing), could use an old hand. On Friday night, the Vikings’ Daunte Culpepper poked holes in the unit, completing 11 of 13 passes for 146 yards. He victimized second-year cornerback Derrick Strait, who started in Law’s eventual spot, on a 42-yard completion to Marcus Robinson.

In the first game, the Lions’ Joey Harrington went 9-for-9 for 100 yards, meaning the Jets have allowed two starting quarterbacks to complete 20 of 22 passes for 246 yards. That they didn’t have star pass rusher John Abraham, embroiled in a contract dispute, probably was a factor.

Edwards downplayed the leaks in the secondary, claiming they can be patched.

“It’s one thing if it’s technique; it’s another thing if you don’t think the athlete is good enough, and I think the athletes are good enough that we have back there,” he said.

Barring injuries and lineup changes, the Jets will go into the season opener at Kansas City with three relatively inexperienced players in three of their top six positions – strong safety (Oliver Celestin or rookie Kerry Rhodes), nickel back (Strait) and dime back (Rashad Washington).

The others are Law, cornerback David Barrett and free safety Erik Coleman, who has only 16 career starts.

Ultimately, the Jets envision a faster secondary than last season, spearheaded by a 31-year-old shutdown corner, Law, who could be an ideal mentor for Rhodes and fellow rookie Justin Miller.

For now, though, Law has his own issues – getting into shape and building confidence in his foot.

So hold the band and put away the fireworks; it may take a while the real Law appears.


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