Ten days after indicating they had no plans to put Mark Sanchez on injured reserve, the New York Jets reversed field Saturday and placed the former starting quarterback on short-term IR -- meaning he is eligible to return after eight weeks.
Sanchez, who has a labral tear in his throwing shoulder, said during a conference call Saturday that he agrees with the decision. Sanchez said he will take a conservative, non-surgical approach, although neither he nor general manager John Idzik ruled out the possibility of surgery after the season.
There could be a quarterback controversy if Sanchez returns healthy. Two days after telling the NFL Network he had locked up the quarterback competition before his preseason injury -- publicly, coach Rex Ryan did not support that claim -- Sanchez said he'll be looking to start when he gets back.
"I expect to play, that's just the way I am," said Sanchez, who battled rookie Geno Smith in a summer-long competition. "I'm expecting to be the starter, I always have been."
Idzik wouldn't commit to Smith beyond next week's game against the Buffalo Bills, saying there will be competition at every position for the remainder of the season.
By rule, Sanchez can return to practice in six weeks and is eligible to play in Week 11 against the Bills. Because of the bye in Week 10, he'll miss only a minimum of seven games.
Sanchez is planning to rehab at the Jets' facility.
The designated-for-return rule, instituted last year, allows teams to bring back one player around midseason from the IR list. It's curious that the Jets used their designation for a non-starter, but Idzik referred to Sanchez as "a very important player."
"He's a quarterback. He's a very important player to our team," Idzik said during the conference call. "The designation is tailor-made for someone like this."
Sanchez's injury has been a source of controversy and intrigue. Initially, he was listed as "day-to-day."
But the days turned to weeks, and now it'll be months before Sanchez returns. The Jets never revealed the actual diagnosis, although it was widely reported as a bruised shoulder joint.
"It wasn't misdiagnosed at all," Idzik said. "We were literally taking it day to day. Now, after three weeks and little bit more information, looking forward, you have to readjust your sights."
Sanchez said he solicited opinions from a "handful" of doctors, including renowned orthopedist James Andrews earlier this week in Gulf Breeze, Fla. He said the "consensus" was to try rehab before considering surgery.
"Listen, surgery has been a possibility in any of these injuries, but the most important thing to know from all these doctors is, we're all on the same page and I've heard the same thing -- my rehab is going great and we want to keep it up," said Sanchez, who didn't miss any time with a similar injury late in the 2010 season.
Sanchez's reputation as a quick healer, Idzik said, factored into the decision to wait three weeks before IR. He said the original prognosis was "very unpredictable," insisting there was a belief that Sanchez could return quickly.
The approach changed after Sanchez received more input from doctors, Idzik said.
"We probably shouldn't push the envelope too much with his rehab," Idzik said. "With Mark, we know he's going to push it. But the smart thing to do would be to take a little bit more time and let the rehab progress at a more manageable pace."
At first, Sanchez was angry with the organization, according to sources, because of how the injury occurred. He was inserted behind a backup offensive line in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game. On Saturday, he didn't deny his initial feelings, but he towed the company line, looking forward.
"There have been no secrets," he said. "I'm not blindsided by this IR situation. The whole thing has been out in the open and we feel great about it."
Sanchez said he doesn't want to look back on coach Rex Ryan's decision to put him in the game or owner Woody Johnson's ill-advised comments from Sept. 4, when he suggested the quarterback should've done a better job of protecting himself from New York Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin.
In reality, Sanchez was a sitting duck on the play, blasted by an unblocked Austin.
"I don't think you heal right if you hold grudges," Sanchez said. "I don't think I'm going to get back to 100 percent if I go through rehab thinking, 'Gosh, what a crappy situation I'm in.' I don't think like that. Negative stuff doesn't help."
Idzik was non-committal on whether Sanchez would be with the Jets in 2014. That came as no surprise, considering Idzik won't comment on anything beyond the next game.
In all likelihood, Sanchez will be released or traded after the season. He has a $13.1 million cap charge in 2014, and the organization no longer sees him as its starting quarterback. Sanchez said he took no offense from Idzik's non-endorsement, saying the GM prefers not to look too far ahead.
Sanchez said he wants to remain with the Jets.
"Absolutely," he said. "I'm a Jet. I've been a Jet from Day 1, and I don't plan on doing anything else."
The Jets will play the next seven games with Smith, Matt Simms and veteran journeyman Brady Quinn, who have a combined total of five victories as NFL starters. After a promising opener, Smith imploded in a Thursday night loss to the New England Patriots, throwing three interceptions in the fourth quarter of a three-point game.