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Former New York Jets golden boy Joe Namath has joined the chorus of critics calling out coach Rex Ryan for Mark Sanchez's injury.
Long on wisdom and perspective, and seldom short on how he expresses it, the 70-year-old Namath says Ryan's decision to play Sanchez in the fourth quarter of Saturday's preseason game against the New York Giants was a senseless one.
"You do not put your quarterback in there in that situation, not the guy that is probably going to be your starter, behind a makeshift offensive line in a preseason game," Namath said Tuesday during an interview with the NFL Network. "Come on. There was no rhyme or reasoning to that."
Sanchez, vying with rookie Geno Smith for the starting job, suffered a bruised throwing shoulder when he was hit by Giants defensive lineman Marvin Austin. Sanchez has been listed as day to day and his availability for the Jets' season opener Sept. 8 against Tampa Bay is in doubt.
"I wish [Ryan] would just say it was wrong -- 'I made a mistake,'" Namath said in the "The Rich Eisen Podcast" interview. "But instead he was talking about the competitive feelings of wanting to win. That's just beating around the bush. My man made a mistake, Rich!"
Sanchez appeared to be on the verge of claiming the starting job, thanks to a three-interception performance Saturday night by Smith. But in his second series against the Giants, Sanchez was leveled by Austin as he scrambled outside the pocket. He went down hard, clutching his shoulder and grimacing in pain.
Ryan has defended the decision, claiming he put Sanchez in because he wanted to beat the Giants, which the Jets did, 24-21 in overtime.
As for Namath, he termed his current relationship with the Jets as "clumsy, awkward."
"Expressing myself and giving my opinions," Namath said.
"None of us when we're in position to be critiqued -- if it's not good -- we don't like to hear it. And I know it's been uncomfortable for the Jets, Mr. [Woody] Johnson, Rex or whatever," Namath said, referring in part to the Jets' owner. "It's uncomfortable for me. It has been for me since I've been around and noticed a subtle change in our relationships."
Namath, speaking a day earlier on ESPN New York's "The Michael Kay Show," questioned whether the Jets' choice to play Sanchez when they did was ultimately made by Ryan or someone else in the organization.
"Who's pushing the buttons?" Namath said. "We know the fan base would like to see Geno Smith out on the field. The reality is, Geno might not be ready. Now Sanchez might not be ready."
Namath said Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had earlier in the week expressed content with how Sanchez was playing.
"Why did he go on that field with backup players when, Thursday, your offensive coordinator is happy with what Sanchez has been doing?" Namath said. "I mean, what are you doing?"
Information from ESPNNewYork.com contributor Ian Begley was used in this report.