Ryan says Sanchez 'doing fantastic'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan thinks quarterback Mark Sanchez's recovery from offseason knee surgery might be a bit ahead of schedule.

Sanchez had the patella-stabilizing ligament in his left knee repaired in February, and he has participated in individual and passing drills since organized team activities began last Monday.

"He's doing fantastic," Ryan said Thursday. "He's probably ahead of where we thought he'd be."

Sanchez also surprised Ryan when he sneaked onto the field during 11-on-11 team drills for the first time this offseason, but it was only for one handoff.

"I was like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa! What's he doing?'" said Ryan, who added it was unplanned. "It's a run. Oh, OK. ... Hand the ball off and get out of the way."

That's exactly what Sanchez did, as he stood behind the offense for most of the rest of the practice session.

"I'm waiting," Ryan said. "When our trainers say he's ready to roll and all that, that's when he'll go in there. He feels great. I think he's pushing us all the time to get in there and that's where you want him to be."

Sanchez was given the day off from speaking with the media, but he has said -- along with Ryan -- that he expects to be 100 percent in time for training camp, if not minicamp next month.

The second-year quarterback has said he understands the need for caution. Sanchez, who led the Jets to the AFC Championship Game as a rookie, began running on grass a few weeks ago after being limited to jogging in a pool and then on a treadmill.

Sanchez looked good in passing drills Thursday, throwing several sharp passes and moving around well without a brace on the knee.

Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens has run the first-team offense while Sanchez is unable to practice fully.

While Sanchez works his way back, LaDainian Tomlinson is becoming more comfortable with the Jets' offense and says he's feeling good physically.

The eighth-leading rusher in NFL history said Thursday that the toughest part for him since being signed by the Jets in March has been getting the terms and nuances of the offense down.

"You always kind of gauge how you're doing and I think with anything, you gain confidence as you go and you always have that belief," Tomlinson said. "When you do it, it always reaffirms that belief that you had. You gain the confidence to keep going and do more."

Tomlinson, 31 next month, says a big positive has been that the style of offense the Jets run is close to that which he was a part of for nine seasons in San Diego.

Ryan says Tomlinson has been impressive during practices this offseason.

"We had this little fold play and he just started boom, boom, boom, like this," Ryan said Thursday, zigzagging his hand. "Two or three different cuts. Clearly he would have made about 20 yards. I was like, 'Yeah, this is our guy.'"

When the Jets signed Tomlinson in March, many believed the aging star was way past his prime -- the years of heavy workloads and 12,490 yards finally taking their toll. And, it's hard to argue with the stats: He had a career-low 730 yards rushing and 3.3 yards per carry last season for San Diego and was a non-factor against the Jets in the playoffs when he had 24 yards on 12 carries.

"His last game, as everybody is quick to point out, he never had a big game against us, but that was our day, I think," Ryan said, referring to the Jets' 17-14 win. "I believe he's got a lot more left. When you watch him out here bouncing around doing a great job with protections, running the football, he's still got that wiggle."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.