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Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Ailing Mark Sanchez practices

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets all but acknowledged that Mark Sanchez is dealing with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder/neck area, but the quarterback refused to say much about the injury, which has flared up at least twice over the last five weeks.

"It's just been a little sore," Sanchez said Tuesday after taking all but three reps in practice. "I've taken some good shots. It's part of the game."

Sanchez showed up on the injury report with a "neck" injury, the first time since late November that he's been listed. After the Nov. 17 loss in Denver, it also was a neck ailment, although he never missed any time in practice or a game.

He said the injuries are "similar," but gave no specifics, insisting, "I feel great, I honestly do." He's receiving treatment, but there's no doubt he will start Saturday against the New York Giants.

Sanchez crumpled to the turf Sunday on a mild body blow from Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Jason Babin, who also grazed Sanchez's facemask with his helmet. Suddenly, his right arm seemed to go limp and he went down.

Coach Rex Ryan said he's not alarmed that his quarterback experienced such discomfort on a relatively minor hit.

"With burners and stingers and things like that, it doesn't take (a big hit)," he said.

Asked if Sanchez has a stinger, slang for a pinched nerve, Ryan replied, "I probably shouldn't have said that. I'm not real sure, but it kind of looked that way to me at the time."

The Jets always have been secretive with quarterback injuries, going back to Chad Pennington and Brett Favre. In 2008, they were fined for concealing Favre's shoulder injury, which required offseason surgery.

Sanchez, who said Babin "might have got me in the right spot," was doubled over as he walked to the Jets' sideline, his right arm hanging at his side. He received medical attention on the bench, which included a neck massage. He took a few warm-up tosses and returned to the game on the next series, not missing a snap because of it.

"We were lucky it wasn't as serious as it looked," guard Brandon Moore said. "Mark's a competitor. He wants to be out there for us. It was good to see him come back."

In practice, during the portion open to the media, Sanchez appeared to have the usual zip on his passes. Interestingly, backup Mark Brunell received three practice reps, according to Ryan, who claimed there was nothing unusual about that.

Starting last late month -- after the Denver loss, perhaps not coincidentally -- Ryan began sitting Sanchez for a few reps each day. At the time, he admitted it was a motivational ploy. It made big headlines and seemed to annoy Sanchez.

The Jets went on a three-game winning streak, so the ever-superstitious Ryan kept the same regimen. But the coach also acknowledged that he wants to keep Brunell, 41, as sharp as possible in the event of an injury to Sanchez. Brunell got some mop-up duty in the 45-19 loss to the Eagles, but he has attempted only three passes for the season.

A year ago, Sanchez suffered a right-shoulder injury in Week 15, but continued to play through the postseason -- and he played well, rehabbing on the fly. He narrowly avoided shoulder surgery in the offseason.

Meanwhile, the Jets appear relatively healthy. As expected, guard Brandon Moore (hip) didn't practice Tuesday, but he will play. Running back Shonn Greene (torn tendon in pinkie) practiced while kick returner Joe McKnight (separated shoulder) sat out but was in uniform and did positional drills. Reserve cornerback Marquice Cole (knee), who missed the last game, sat out.

Wide receiver and punt returner Jeremy Kerley wasn't seen on the practice field during the period open to the media. The team has yet to comment on his status.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.