Curtis Painter a reminder of key Jets moment

Giants quarterback Curtis Painter practices during training camp

Giants quarterback Curtis Painter practices during training camp at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. (Aug. 12, 2013) (Credit: James Escher)

At some point on Saturday, Curtis Painter will come into the game against the Jets and replace a quarterback named Manning. And while that may not mean a whole lot to him, for Jets fans it will be a reminder of one of the most important moments in the team's recent history.

In Week 16 of the 2009 season, the Jets needed a win against the Colts to stay alive for a playoff berth. They were trailing the previously undefeated Colts 15-10 late in the third quarter when Indianapolis coach Jim Caldwell pulled Peyton Manning and several other starters from the game, presumably to rest them for a playoff run after they had already clinched the top seed in the AFC.

With experienced backup quarterback Jim Sorgi (also a former Giant) on injured reserve, the duty of replacing Manning went to the rookie Painter.

As the Colts fans booed, Painter was hit by linebacker Calvin Pace and lost the ball. Marques Douglas recovered it and scored the go-ahead touchdown. A two-point conversion gave the Jets an 18-15 lead.

Painter wound up completing just four of 11 passes for 44 yards and an interception. He was sacked twice. The Jets wound up winning, 29-15, and won the next week against the Bengals to get into the playoffs.

Painter seems unaware of his place in Jets folklore.

"I don't remember a whole lot from that game but that was a number of years ago," Painter said on Tuesday. "(There are) a lot of different faces and a different scenario altogether."

These days Painter is battling for the backup job with the Giants. He sat out Sunday's preseason game against the Colts as David Carr had a chance to audition with the second team. But on Saturday against the Jets it will be Painter's turn to try to establish himself as the backup.

"The more reps you get in any system you're going to feel more comfortable," Painter said of his short time with the Giants. "Just being here through the offseason and getting a chance to soak it up more, it's gone well. You can continue to improve and learn more as you go, but it's going pretty well."

Despite being in the area for more than eight months, Painter said he has never been approached by any Jets fans about his special place in their history.

"No, no," he said. "Nope, I haven't."

Painter was signed in January after spending the 2012 season out of football. He was in camp with the Ravens last summer but was released on cutdown day in August. It seemed to be a sign that the Giants did not expect to bring veteran backup Carr back.

But Carr re-signed with the Giants after free agency began and then the Giants added another body to the quarterback equation when they drafted Ryan Nassib in April. Painter said he was not surprised nor upset by the glut of players at the position.

"There are going to be quarterbacks everywhere you go," he said. "I don't look at it as a competition per se. Whether there are two guys in there or four guys in there, we're all trying to make this team better in whatever way we can. Any type of decision comes from the people higher up and we can't control that other than just going out there and doing our best."

He'll get that chance on Saturday against the Jets, the same team he got his original NFL shot against. Painter said he was even ready to go against the Colts on Sunday, even though he had been told he'd be sitting out that game.

"No matter if you're a starter or the backup you still have to be ready," he said. "I took the same approach and prepared like I would be in there because crazier things have happened and it's always best to be ready."

The 2009 Jets can attest to that.

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