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Thursday, June 11, 2009
Jets' Ryan: Two QBs are 'really battling'

Associated Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez drove the New York Jets' offense down the field and capped a successful minicamp with a well-placed statement.

The rookie quarterback hit Wallace Wright in stride in the left corner of the end zone for a pretty 17-yard touchdown Thursday. A day after signing a record-breaking deal, Sanchez wasn't satisfied with just having a fat paycheck. He showed he wants to be the Jets' starting quarterback.

"Wow," Rex Ryan said. "What a day."

Indeed. Sanchez signed a five-year deal Wednesday night that could be worth up to $60 million, including a team-record $28 million guaranteed. With all eyes on the new high-paid face of the franchise, Sanchez delivered.

"It was the most comfortable that I've felt ending on a drive like that," Sanchez said. "I really just let myself go."

He sure did, completing his last five passes of the day in 11-on-11 drills. He hit Wright short, then connected with David Clowney on three consecutive throws to set up the touchdown toss that caused the hundreds of fans watching to cheer wildly.

"The other guys notice that, too," Sanchez said. "They notice when you throw an interception and they notice when you run down on a 2-minute drill and score. That's the way it's got to be from here on out. It's got to be that way. I know what it feels like to get in that situation and I'll be ready for that come camp time.

"It was a good way to end."

But his competition with Kellen Clemens for the starting job has just begun, and Ryan said the two are "really battling."

Clemens, a former second-round pick who was once considered the franchise's future quarterback, has also been solid this offseason while working mostly with the first-team. He also completed his last few throws on his final series of 11-on-11s, but his drive lacked the drama of Sanchez's.

"I feel really good about where I am right now with my comfort with the offense," Clemens said. "It will be more work for me through the offseason. Then, taking a little bit of a break to recharge the batteries. I'm very excited about where we are, going into training camp."

The Jets are done with full-team practices until July 31, when camp opens in Cortland, N.Y. That's when the quarterback competition -- clearly the most intriguing and important battle this summer for the Jets -- will really heat up.

"I knew it was going to be a dogfight and right now, you can tell it really is," Ryan said. "We probably won't know until whenever it becomes obvious, that's when we'll make the decision. Obviously, you'd prefer to have it sooner than later, but I don't think that's going to happen."

Clemens, to his credit, hasn't sulked one bit this offseason -- not when the Jets were flirting with Jay Cutler or when they traded up in the draft to take Sanchez. He was again gracious when he was asked if Sanchez's huge contract is a sign the rookie has the backing of the organization.

"That's none of my business," Clemens said. "From what I've been told, and the only thing that matters in this competition, is that the best player will play. They never said that the highest paid player is going to play, but the best player is going to play.

"If they change their approach, then I'll change my approach."

Ryan said early in the offseason he had a feeling about how the competition would go, but didn't realize how close it would be. He also said money won't factor in the final decision.

"I have to do what's best for our football team," Ryan said. "If that means we play a rookie, so be it. If we play Kellen Clemens, so be it. The guy is going to have to earn that job."

Meanwhile, Sanchez was the source of lots of good-natured ribbing Thursday.

"It's pretty good," he said, smiling. "A lot of guys do that, 'sniff, sniff,' smells like new money around here."

Even while Sanchez was talking to reporters outside the locker room, right tackle Damien Woody walked by and yelled out: "Hey, I need a loan!"

"No one has demanded too much," Sanchez said, laughing. "They've just been joking around saying, 'So, when are we going out?' or 'When are we going to dinner?' or 'Don't forget you're still a rook, you have to buy all the stuff for gameday mornings.' So, I've been hearing all of the requests."

Notes

Ryan singled out Sanchez, Wright, safety Eric Smith and linebacker Marques Murrell as minicamp standouts. ... Smith made his fifth interception of minicamp Wednesday. "Ed Reed. That's what it reminded me of," Ryan said. Smith pulled up lame after tweaking his right hamstring on the INT, but said he was fine.