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Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Jets play hardball with Sanchez


When Eric Mangini was head coach of the New York Jets, he hired noted boxing trainer and ESPN analyst Teddy Atlas as an assistant coach of sorts.

The Jets didn't always show much fight despite the presence of a guy who coached the likes of Mike Tyson, Michael Moorer and Hall of Fame featherweight Barry McGuigan.

But it was a cool idea nonetheless.

So current Jets head coach Rex Ryan has dipped into Mangini's bag of tricks, summoning help from outside the football world.

Ryan, who apparently has no trouble thinking outside the tackle box, contacted the New York Yankees on Tuesday to see if they could dispatch an instructor to teach quarterback Mark Sanchez how to slide.

The Yankees sent their best guy, manager Joe Girardi.

"I want to make sure we do everything in our power to provide him with the best tools,'' Ryan said Tuesday, per the Newark Star-Ledger. Sanchez is "the face of our franchise. We have to keep him healthy.''

Sanchez came up a little gimpy after trying to run out of bounds Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The play scared Sanchez more than anything, and he returned to the game.

But the Jets don't want to take any chances.

"When you have an opportunity to get the best, you get the best," Ryan said. "As Mark went through it, you could see the more comfortable he got.''

Sanchez found that old habits are hard to break.

"I’ve never really been a slider," he said. "In baseball, I slid head first. 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. Once you get the first down or as many yards as you need, just protect yourself and protect the ball and give yourself a chance to play.

"[Girardi taught me how to] hook my leg, because I wear that brace on my left leg so you don’t want to hook that leg into the ground because it might get stuck. He showed me how to do it with the opposite leg and hook that leg under. He showed me how to protect the ball while I am sliding and try not to fall on one side or the other on my shoulder, just absorb the blow with my butt and my legs. It was important for me to learn that and I really appreciated it."

Ryan said Sanchez took the instruction well.

"He's a natural,'' Ryan said. "He did a great job. He did a better job than I could do."

Fittingly, the Jets will play the Buffalo Bills on Thursday night in the Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.

We'll see how often the Jets take two and hit to right.