- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The last time the New York Jets gave No. 4 to a quarterback coming out of retirement was 2008, Brett Favre. David Garrard wore the number Thursday on his first day back, with considerably less fanfare than Favre. Coincidentally, Thursday was Favre's birthday -- his 44th.
Anyway, there's no harm in giving Garrard a chance to restart his career -- no harm unless you're Brady Quinn, who almost certainly will be released if the Jets decide to activate Garrard. It's not a guarantee; remember, he called them, not vice versa. Until they make that call (Oct. 21 is the deadline), they don't have to pay Garrard, who is working "pro bono," as he put it. He has a chance to be the new Mark Brunell, a locker-room sage and mentor to rookie Geno Smith and first-year QB Matt Simms.
Funny, but long before Brunell was brought here to help groom Mark Sanchez (2010-2011), he helped a young quarterback named ... Garrard. Small world, right? Garrard and Brunell spent two season together in Jacksonville, 2002 and 2003, and Garrard wants to pay it forward.
"When I was a rookie and everything was flying around, Mark Brunell was able to help me when I just got to the league," Garrard said. "I want to make sure I can return the favor."
At 35, Garrard is a football graybeard. He has seen a lot of things. He's a charismatic guy who wants to impart his wisdom to those around him. He'll be good for Smith, who could use a big-brother type to lean on. Sanchez has been a good sport, trying to help Smith, but he can't help him the way Garrard can. Besides, Sanchez probably won't be around the football stuff as much as he was before, now that he's recovering from shoulder surgery.
The Garrard move is all good -- unless he has to actually, you know, play. He hasn't taken a snap since 2010 and, even though he insists his surgically repaired left knee is fine, it's a bone-on-bone condition, and that never heals. It's the reason he retired in May. At the time, he gave Peter King of SI.com a rather candid explanation on why he decided to quit.
"I couldn't jog most days," Garrard told SI.com in late May. "I could barely walk around without it hurting. And we weren't even in the strenuous part of camp yet. I figured, 'No way I can just take every fourth day off.' I went to see Rex [Ryan], and I just told him I didn't think I could do it. He didn't want to hear it. But I just told him what the doctor said -- it's only going to get worse. And that was it."
The regular-season regimen isn't nearly as taxing as the offseason or training camp, especially for the No. 3 quarterback. So -- who knows? -- maybe Garrard's knee will hold up.
"If he's holding the clipboard, good," an AFC personnel executive said. "If he has to play, can he take contact? Is he durable? Could he play the rest of the season if it came to that? I guess we'll never know until then."
The Jets hope they don't have to find out.