QB Sanchez settles in with new team

Updated: May 1, 2009, 9:41 PM ET
Associated Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez was up late the night before his first practices with the New York Jets, staring into a mirror and reciting calls from his playbook.

"You've just got to run the plays and say it over and over," a smiling Sanchez said. "Just so I can say it and hear what it sounds like to me."

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMark Sanchez is the first quarterback the Jets have selected with a top-five pick since a certain No. 12 from the University of Alabama.

The preparation appeared to pay off for the fifth overall pick in the draft, who looked sharp as the Jets' rookie camp opened Friday with a buzz reminiscent of Brett Favre's arrival last summer.

"All I've prepared for is knowing that people expect results here and they want wins," Sanchez said. "I'm here to learn this playbook as fast as I can, mesh with the guys and start to lead. That's the game plan."

Sanchez's day started with some stretching in the middle of the indoor field, fittingly just in front of the Jets' logo at the 50-yard line. All eyes were on the rookie from Southern California who has quickly become the face of the franchise.

"You look at it and say, it's your typical rookie camp," coach Rex Ryan said with a laugh. "There's a Game 7 in the NBA coming up and all that kind of stuff, but I guess it would've been the same if we had taken a tackle, right?"

Well, not quite, Rex. This is different. Sanchez was the first quarterback selected by the Jets with one of the draft's first five picks since Joe Namath went No. 1 overall in 1965. With the franchise starving for its first Super Bowl title since Namath won one in 1969, Sanchez faces exorbitant expectations.

"It's about this team right now, with full respect to the history here," Sanchez said, brushing away any suggestions that the team's history could become a burden on him. "Coach Ryan came in and we're looking forward."

Sanchez will compete with Kellen Clemens for the starting job, and Ryan is unfazed by the prospect of having a rookie QB open the season as the starter for the first time in franchise history.

No, not even Namath.

"If your team's good enough, you can win with anybody," Ryan said.

Ryan I think he's himself and he's a natural leader. Some guys can lead and some guys can't. Either you've got it or you don't and, clearly, he's an individual that definitely has leadership qualities.

-- Jets head coach Rex Ryan

Ryan said he thought even before training camp last summer that Joe Flacco was the best quarterback Baltimore had. Flacco went out and led the Ravens to the AFC championship game.

"You just let them compete," Ryan said. "The cream will rise to the top and I truly believe that, but I've got an opinion on how it's going to go. I'm not going to share it with you. You have to earn the job."

And that's exactly what Sanchez intends to do.

"That's still a ways away, but of course, I'm expecting to play and that's all you want to do," he said. "You don't grow up dreaming of being a backup, so I guess that's just the way I feel about it. I'm going to compete like heck and we'll see what happens."

The two practices Friday capped an exciting week for Sanchez, who threw out the first pitch at a Mets game, took in the Broadway show "Wicked," did a media tour around New York City, worked out at Columbia University and got a kick riding the subway.

"It was great, just a whirlwind tour," he said. "It's a fun city and it's beautiful. ... That was a one-week thing while my parents were here and now that they're gone, it's time to get to work."

With dozens of cameras and reporters following his every move, Sanchez showed nice zip on most of his passes and appeared comfortable running the offense.

"That guy is miles ahead of everyone," said offensive lineman Matt Slauson, the team's sixth-round pick out of Nebraska. "I mean, he obviously knows the game. Everything he does is so precise and crisp."

In the morning practice, Sanchez made a number of pretty throws, including hitting Marcus Henry in stride from about 30 yards out, resulting in a 65-yard touchdown. He was also accurate on most of the sideline patterns.

After a few nice completions, Sanchez took off down the field to congratulate his receiver as if the catch just won a ballgame.

"I think he's himself and he's a natural leader," Ryan said. "Some guys can lead and some guys can't. Either you've got it or you don't and, clearly, he's an individual that definitely has leadership qualities."

Sanchez wasn't quite as accurate in the afternoon session, throwing his first interception on a pass intended for Paul Raymond that was tipped into Marquice Cole's hands. The only negative, Ryan said, was Sanchez needs to throw the ball more to the outside of the receivers on comeback routes.

"It's difficult when you first come in and it's a new system," Sanchez said. "You want to just try and speak the language as soon as possible. I'm trying to get all the terminology down and me being tough on myself, I want it right every time and it's not always that way, especially the first weekend.

"This is a very successful first day and it was a good experience."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press