Jets' Sanchez back at practice

Updated: December 16, 2009, 7:45 PM ET
Associated Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez was back on the field taking snaps for the New York Jets, ready to reclaim his starting job.

Now, it's all up to his sprained right knee.

"I felt good today," Sanchez said Wednesday. "We'll see how it goes, play it day to day and talk to the doctors again [Thursday]. But I feel confident."

Sanchez practiced for the first time since spraining the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 3. Coach Rex Ryan wants to be sure there's no stiffness or swelling in Sanchez's knee before deciding whether he or Kellen Clemens will start against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.

"He hasn't worked like this football-wise for a while, so we'll see how he responds," Ryan said.

Sanchez practiced with a brace and split the snaps with the first-team offense with Clemens. Sanchez is also wearing a brace on his left knee from an earlier injury but wasn't sure if he'd wear both if he plays Sunday at the Meadowlands.

"I looked like Forrest Gump out there, man," he said, smiling, adding that the braces are lightweight and custom-made to fit his knee. "They were giving me a hard time out there, but it's all right. If I've got to wear Rollerblades, I'll wear Rollerblades. Last week, I was just dying not being there. If it means I've got to wear two braces, I'll wear two braces. Whatever. "

Sanchez appeared unimpeded by the injury that sidelined him for New York's 26-3 win at Tampa Bay on Sunday.

"I'm not a burner or speed guy anyway, so I'm not getting away from too many people in this league," he said. "The most important thing is just getting back out on the field and working; the range of motion will come second."

The former Southern California quarterback also wore short sleeves despite near-freezing temperatures, preparing for cold-weather games.

"It was good," he said with a big smile. "I needed it, thicken my blood."

Ryan said if the knee is fine and cleared medically, he could conceivably give Sanchez all the first-team snaps at practice Thursday.

"If we felt 100 percent that was the direction we would go, then absolutely that would be the course of action," Ryan said. "I'm not even saying that we'll know for sure a definite answer tomorrow. We'll just have to see. Again, this is a big decision."

Sanchez was hurt during the Jets' win over the Bills in Toronto and spent last week rehabilitating at the team's facility. He said he thought he could play and was upset by Ryan's decision and didn't travel with the team to Tampa Bay.

"It was killing me," Sanchez said. "I want to be on the field. It was hard to see the guys leave on the plane and go on the trip and know Saturday night they're in the hotel in meetings. But I watched the game with my call sheet and followed along and felt good about it."

Ryan was not concerned that Sanchez might hide any discomfort so he could play.

"There's no heroes," Ryan said. "He knows how important this game is to us. He knows that his safety is important to us. I think he'll definitely be honest with us. He always has been."

Sanchez concurred, adding he and Ryan have a strong relationship.

"He knows I'll be honest with him, that if something hurts, I'll tell him," Sanchez said. "And if I'm not ready or I'm going to do the team a disservice or myself a disservice, we need to make a change or something. ... He trusts me and I trust him and I know he was just trying to protect me."

Clemens started in Sanchez's place, going 12-for-23 for 111 yards and no turnovers. He would start again if Sanchez isn't medically cleared in time to play.

"We have confidence in Kellen," Ryan said. "I thought he managed the game exactly how we needed it."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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