- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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In damage control a day after his cryptic no-comments fueled speculation of a rift with Sanchez, Smith called the mini-controversy over “Jets West” a simple misunderstanding.
Smith wasn’t scheduled to speak to the media on the final day of minicamp, but the public relations staff gathered reporters in the locker room so he could “clarify” his remarks from the previous day. On Wednesday, Smith refused to answer when asked if he’s planning to attend “Jets West,” a week of informal, players-only workouts hosted by Sanchez at his old high school in Mission Viejo, Calif. Sanchez has held the camp since 2009; all offensive skill-position players are invited.
Smith said he and Sanchez never discussed it.
“It kind of caught me off guard because it’s not on my schedule or anything,” said the former West Virginia star, competing with Sanchez for the starting job. “I was like, ‘What is Jets West?’ Basically, I didn’t comment because I was always taught if you don’t know exactly what you’re answering about, never to comment on it.”
On Wednesday, Sanchez reiterated that every player is invited. But he, too, was reluctant to discuss it. Other players said “Jets West” has been openly discussed in the locker room. Smith said he’d like to attend the camp. But he’s waiting for an invite.
“Mark hasn’t officially extended the hand to me,” he said, “but I’m pretty sure there’s no problem there. I’m more than willing to go there and get some work with the guys and do all that stuff because it helps team bonding. I fully support it.”
So, basically, he's waiting for an invitation to an event he didn't know existed until 24 hours ago. This sounds like a "Seinfeld" episode.
Smith could’ve avoided the fuss, but he offered only three consecutive “no comment” answers on Wednesday. He insisted his relationship with Sanchez is fine.
“Mark is a great guy, he welcomed me with open arms,” Smith said. “All of these guys have. I never felt any type of negative vibe from him or any other guy. That’s a good thing about being a rookie, being part of the Jets. I get the opportunity to compete for a starting job, which is very rare, especially at this position.”
Sanchez has been complimentary of Smith, but he made it clear at the start of the offseason that it would be hard to become close friends with a direct competitor. Sanchez described his relationship last year with Tim Tebow as cordial and professional, but not buddy-buddy. Tebow attended “Jets West” last summer, as did about a dozen players.
Smith, a second-round pick, remains one of three unsigned draft choices. His representation, Roc Nation Sports, is being investigated by the NFLPA to see if it violated the so-called “runner” rule. If Smith was recruited by rap star Jay-Z, a Roc Nation owner, it would be a violation because he’s not a certified agent.
General manager John Idzik indicated the investigation has no bearing on contract negotiations. “Nothing is standing in the way,” he said.