Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Updated: December 23, 7:59 AM ET
Mark Sanchez deals with shoulder injury
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The second-most talked about body part Wednesday around the New York Jets, next to Michelle Ryan's feet, was Mark Sanchez's right shoulder.
Oh, yes, remember that?
An MRI exam Monday revealed a small cartilage tear, a league source confirmed Wednesday night. But doctors don't believe the tear is the result of a hit in last Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the source said. The feeling is that it's simply the cumulative effect of wear and tear over the years, and that it shouldn't be a major hindrance. As of now, the possibility of postseason surgery appears remote.
Sanchez practiced on a limited basis -- only soft-tossing, plus some left-handed throws -- but he vowed to be ready Sunday to face the Chicago Bears. If the Jets (10-4) win, they clinch a playoff spot for the second straight year.
"I'm in there. I'm playing, that's all there is to it," the second-year quarterback said after practice. "I have to be on the field. That's what I'm here for and that's what I'm going to do."
Head coach Rex Ryan said he's 99 percent sure Sanchez will start. The question is, how effective will he be? Practice time is critical for Sanchez, who has only 29 career starts, but the team is being ultra-cautious with his shoulder and that may mean lost reps during the week.
On Wednesday, Sanchez did virtually no passing in team drills, limited to handing off on running plays. Later, with a mischievous grin, he said he snuck into a couple of passing plays, but he didn't cut loose. In the early portion of practice, open to the media, he actually made a few left-handed throws in quarterback drills.
Both Sanchez and Ryan downplayed the seriousness of the injury, yet the team refused to reveal the exact nature of it. Ryan, half-jokingly, said he couldn't pronounce the "verbiage" of the injury. For now, the team is calling it a sore shoulder.
Sanchez landed awkwardly on his right shoulder on a first-quarter scramble in Sunday's 22-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. He stayed in the game and played well, but admitted that he needed sideline warm-up tosses throughout the game to stay warm and loose. An MRI exam Monday was negative, according to the Jets. Sanchez said he was "very pleased" with the results. There was no rotator-cuff damage, no separation and no dislocation, a source said.
The Jets' No. 2 quarterback is 40-year-old Mark Brunell, who has attempted only one pass this season.
They're hopeful that Sanchez will be able to participate in a full practice this week, but they also don't want to push him. It's a delicate balance. In the meantime, he will play "invisible football," as he called it. He takes mental reps, calling in plays to Brunell and practicing his dropbacks and reads in simulated game situations.
"I'm being safe about it and I'm in for the long haul," Sanchez said. "We have, hopefully, six or seven weeks left -- or whatever it is -- and I want to make it through all those weeks."
He was alluding to a Super Bowl run, of course. To do that, the Jets will need Sanchez to be a low-mistake quarterback. He was interception-free in Pittsburgh, snapping a three-game slump that prompted Ryan to call him out publicly and sit him for a couple of plays last week in practice. Ryan said he wanted to make Sanchez accountable for his sloppy play, knowing it would tick off his young quarterback.
Sanchez made it clear that he wasn't happy about that at all, apparently causing some tension between him and Ryan.
"He knows I disagreed with coming out," Sanchez said, adding, "He knows we have an understanding that I don't always agree with him. It's personal to me, and I think he knows that. ... I'm possessive about this job, so we had a little talk about it. But it's good. I think part of it was a psychological thing, just to kind of test me a little bit."
This week's challenge will be more physical than psychological.
In other injury news, wide receiver Santonio Holmes missed practice because of turf toe. The injury isn't serious, Ryan said, and he expects Holmes to play Sunday.
"[I] never thought it was this bad, quite honestly," Ryan said. "I never knew that we'd have to hold him out today, but it was bad enough to keep him out. Now I expect him to play, but he was not comfortable today."
Ryan added that he expects Holmes, who injured his toe during the game against the Steelers last Sunday, to be able to practice later in the week.
"I think he will," Ryan said. "I don't think he's out by any stretch of the imagination. ... It was sore today where he didn't feel like he could practice."
Holmes, who had six catches for 40 yards against the Steelers, did not speak with reporters after practice.
Right tackle Damien Woody, one week removed from arthroscopic knee surgery, will sit at least one more game.
Safeties Eric Smith (concussion) and James Ihedigbo (knee, ankle) also missed practice.
Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. You can follow him on Twitter. ESPNNewYork.com's Mike Mazzeo contributed to this report.