Sanchez works on sliding on right leg
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez is learning how to slide like a Yankee.
Don't worry, Jets fans. The rookie quarterback isn't looking to trade in his pads for pinstripes. He was just working on his sliding technique Tuesday with Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who guided New York to its 27th World Series title last month.
"I've never really been a slider," Sanchez said. "In baseball, I slid headfirst. In football, I've done the same thing or tried to get out of bounds or throw the ball away. It's something that you need to learn at this level."
Jets coach Rex Ryan wants Sanchez to make more of a conscious effort to slide and avoid potential injuries.
"When we bring Joe Girardi in, this is all about business," Ryan said. "Mark understands that. We kid about the 'Sanchise' name, but he's the face of our franchise. We've got to keep him healthy."
Sanchez is nursing a sore left knee, which he injured when he was tackled at the end of a scramble in New York's 17-6 win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday. He wears a brace on his left leg, which hampers his ability to slide on that side.
"He was a guy that grew up sliding off his left leg and was tentative sliding off his right leg," Ryan said. "It was a confidence-building thing, and know you've got the best teacher in the game teaching you how to do this."
Girardi instructed Sanchez how to hook his right leg correctly and how to protect the ball while sliding.
"He wears a brace on his left leg, so we tried to help him learn how to slide on the other leg," Girardi said. "It's not an easy thing to do."
The quarterback found out Girardi was going to be his special sliding instructor just before practice.
"Coach said he'd have someone out to work with me on sliding," Sanchez said. "I thought he meant it would be one of the coaches or a quarterback coach or something."
Sanchez slid 10 to 15 times on a mat, making like Derek Jeter.
"He's too valuable and he needs to understand that we need him out there and people are going to take shots at him if he doesn't start sliding," Ryan said of Sanchez. "I really did want to make an emphasis to Mark and get the best guy that we can in the area."
Ryan said he came up with the idea of bringing in someone from the Yankees on Monday night.
"We're bringing in a world champ to get this done," Ryan thought.
So he put in a call around 8:30 a.m. Tuesday to Yankees president Randy Levine, who he met at the wedding of Jets owner Woody Johnson. Girardi was at the team's facility a few hours later.
"Coach Ryan called me," Levine said. "I gave it to [general manager] Brian Cashman, [assistant GM] Jean Afterman and Joe Girardi, and we were glad to help."
Ryan said he had no idea who was going to show up from the Yankees organization.
"I knew whoever it would be from the Yankees would be a lot more impactful than if I would teach Sanchez to slide," he said. "As far as I was hitting them, I never had to slide when I was a kid."
Ryan was asked if he tried to get Rickey Henderson, baseball's stolen base king.
"Rickey Henderson? No, because he always slid headfirst," Ryan said with a laugh. "That's our problem. He's seen way too much of Rickey Henderson. Girardi was a catcher, so you know he was sliding feetfirst, so that's how we went."
Girardi had a memorable slide on an RBI triple in Game 6 of the 1996 World Series, when the Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves.
"This is probably the first football player he's ever done that with, but he's a natural," Ryan said. "He did an outstanding job. He even talked about protecting his left hand. He did a way better job than I knew I could do, and I was right."
Girardi watched practice along with his son, Dante, and Yankees coaching assistant Brett Weber.
"I'd had the chance to meet Coach Ryan at Yankee Stadium earlier this year, and I'm glad I was around to take the trip out to visit him," Girardi said. "Football practice is so much different than batting practice because there is so many facets of the game that need to be covered."
Girardi also addressed the team after practice.
"That was great, man," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "He gave us a little pep talk about the outcome they had this year and telling us about the ups and downs they had. I took something out of it, and it was unity. It was a great speech."
And, as for Sanchez's potential as a basestealer?
"Um, no, he's not fast," Revis said with a laugh.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press