FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan was non-committal Wednesday on the future of injured quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has three years remaining on his contract.
"I don't want to get into that," Ryan said of his former starter, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery Tuesday. "I think he's going to come back 100 percent. That seems to be how the doctors feel. I know for a fact this organization will do everything in its power to see that's a possibility for him. ... Whether he's here or whatever, our thing is on doing what's best for Mark, which would be to get him healthy."
Moments earlier, Ryan expressed hope that outside linebacker Antwan Barnes, who will have season-ending knee surgery, will be back in 2014. Ryan declined to express that same sentiment for Sanchez.
It's not hard to read between the lines here. Sanchez, who has lost his starting job to rookie Geno Smith, has a $13.1 million cap charge in 2014. The Jets can reduce that by $8.3 million by releasing him next offseason, the expected outcome.
When Ryan is asked about a player's future, his stock answer is, "He's under contract, so we expect him back." Sanchez is signed through 2016. Pressed, Ryan did a little dance.
"Will he come back? He's under contract, so you guys know more about it than I do," he said, making an odd statement. "You look at it, he's under contract. So, fine."
Ryan lightened the mood when asked to reflect on Sanchez's four seasons as the starter, which included two playoff appearances.
"Certainly there are things that jump out, but we're acting like he's dead," he said. "Mark Sanchez is not dead. Sanchez is going to be 100 percent healthy, guys. It's not like his career is over. He's going to play again."
Sanchez decided to have surgery three weeks after he was placed on short-term injured reserve (eight weeks). Each team gets only one short-term designation, and you could argue the Jets misused theirs.
"In hindsight, I would say that would be a true statement," Ryan said. "But at the same time, we were trying to give Mark every opportunity to come back and play. ... We were hopeful he could come back. We certainly knew surgery could be a possibility, but we were hoping that at some point he would come back and contribute as a player."
General manager John Idzik, through a team spokesman, declined an interview request.
If Sanchez is done with the Jets, his final play will be a complete pass in a preseason game against the New York Giants. After he released the ball, he was blasted by defensive tackle Marvin Austin, resulting in a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Inexplicably, Ryan inserted Sanchez into the game behind the backup line.
"It's sad to see," outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. "I've been with him since he's been here. I don't know what the future holds for him. You never want to see a guy get hurt, especially how he got hurt -- in a preseason game."