Commentary

Mark Sanchez ready for MNF action

Unconcerned about surgically repaired knee, Jets QB taking on bigger leadership role

Updated: August 14, 2010, 11:13 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Linus has his blanket; Mark Sanchez has his compression sleeve.

The New York Jets' quarterback got so attached to the sleeve during his knee rehabilitation that he wears it to bed. Mind you, the surgery was six months ago. Weird?

"So it never swells," Sanchez said Saturday, adding, "I've had it on for so long since the surgery that I just kind of left it."

If it weren't for the emotional connection to the sleeve, Sanchez said he'd never think about his surgically repaired left knee. He's so confident in his knee that, after months of rehab and two weeks of taking every first-team rep in training camp, he's ready to be hit. He longs to be hit.

When is the last time you heard a quarterback say that?

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/Kevin RivoliMark Sanchez is eager to test his left knee in a game situation.

"I want to hopefully get hit -- not blindsided or anything, just a little shot here or there after a play," said Sanchez, who will get his wish (maybe) in the Jets' preseason opener Monday night against the New York Giants on ESPN (8 p.m. ET). "It's good. It will be fine."

Sanchez's knee has been a nonissue in camp, which has been dominated by Darrelle Revis' holdout (12 days and counting) and the team's appearance on HBO's "Hard Knocks." Sanchez and coach Rex Ryan offered the same response when asked about the knee, saying basically, "What knee?"

"I don't even look at him that way," said Ryan, announcing that he will play Sanchez and the rest of the offensive and defensive starters for at least one quarter in the preseason opener. "Right now, he's moving great, he's doing everything. I guess we should be more concerned, but it hasn't even dawned on us."

Sanchez has turned down a couple of offers from the training staff to rest the knee by taking a few plays off. That he has taken every rep is surprising, considering he missed most of the offseason. He didn't return to practice until the June minicamp, and even then he was limited to one practice per day.

"[The doctors] say his knee is 1,000 percent better than it was before the surgery," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.

Sanchez underwent elective surgery in February to strengthen the patella tendon, stemming from an old college injury. He played last season with a brace, but he hopes to lose it eventually. He's not sure if he'll wear it against the Giants.

So much has changed for Sanchez. A year ago, he was battling Kellen Clemens for the starting job, an overhyped competition in which every pass was scrutinized. Now, instead of trying to win a job, his goal is to win over the team. He wants to be the leader of the offense.

According to teammates and coaches, Sanchez is more vocal in meetings than he was last year. He's authoritative in the huddle. He's decisive when calling plays.

"He really is taking a lot of pride in being the general, if you will, of this offense," Schottenheimer said.

Sanchez is having a solid, if not stellar, camp. Clearly, his command of the offense has improved significantly, although he's still throwing more interceptions than he should.

Even though he called Sanchez "one of the most accurate passers I've ever been around," Schottenheimer noted that his star pupil tends to misfire on passes to his left because he keeps his left foot closed while releasing the ball.

But all things considered, they're pleased with his progress. They will add some "new wrinkles" for the game against the Giants, to see how Sanchez responds.

"I want to look at my grade sheet after the game and be perfect on my footwork and perfect on decision-making," Sanchez said. "I want to see all pluses."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Follow him on Twitter.

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Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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