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Tough luck for McElroy

UPDATE: A Jets spokesman confirmed the surgery late Friday afternoon, adding that McElroy will be out indefinitely. However, the team has no plans to place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Greg McElroy took a pounding in his four preseason appearances and -- go figure -- he ended up getting hurt on a freak play, a serious thumb injury when his throwing hand crashed into the helmet of RG Matt Kroul in Thursday night's loss to the Eagles.

McElroy underwent surgery Friday morning, as reported earlier on ESPNNewYork.com. The rookie QB from Alabama will be throwing soon, according to a person familiar with the injury, although the early word is that he'll miss at least a few weeks.

As crazy as it sounds, this really isn't a tremendous setback. Assuming Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell stay healthy, McElroy wasn't going to play, obviously. But he'll be able to hang around and attend meetings and continue to learn the offense as he recovers.

The Jets now have an opening for a No. 3 quarterback.

They could give the job to free agent Drew Willy (doubtful) or acquire a veteran from outside the organization, presumably someone familiar with their system. The most obvious names are Kellen Clemens (Redskins) and Kevin O'Connell (Dolphins), both of whom are on the bubble. One thing to remember: If they were to sign Clemens or any other vested veteran and put him on the opening-day roster, his 2011 salary would be guaranteed.

The other day, I was talking to another Alabama alum of note, Joe Namath, and he raved about McElroy. This is what Broadway Joe had to say about McElroy, who reminds him of his good buddy Richard Todd (ex-Jets QB from 'Bama who also wore No. 14) whenever he sees the rookie:

"He's smart. He's gifted more so than a lot of us were, with his mind -- his brain. He probably knows that entire Jets offense right now ... I think Greg has a bright future ahead of him. I'd like to see him get more arm strength and he will. He's going to turn into a bigger, stronger guy, but he's a good football player.

"You look at his background. He's a winner. He knows what it takes. I tell you, when I first watched him, I wasn't convinced that he had the athleticism you want to see. But he certainly has enough athleticism to go along with the mental part of the game and the toughness to make it in the big leagues."