- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Quarterback Michael Vick all but conceded the New York Jets' starting job to Geno Smith, saying Thursday it will be difficult to win the position in the preseason because he doesn't see it as an open competition.
Vick said the situation is different from what he experienced last season with the Philadelphia Eagles. That, he said, began as an even competition against Nick Foles and was presented as such by coach Chip Kelly. This time, Vick's sense is that his job is to push and mentor Smith.
"Going into camp with Nick, we knew it was an open competition and the best guy was going to win the job -- the guy who performed throughout OTAs and the preseason," said Vick, who prevailed over Foles before losing the job during the season. "That's just what it was. It was pretty much cut and dried.
"This situation is different. It's kind of unique. Even though it's not an open competition, we're both competing every day."
Several players echoed Vick's sentiment, saying they are operating under the belief that Smith is the starter. The organization has made comments to that effect but has refused to acknowledge the second-year quarterback as the incumbent.
Vick, who signed a one-year, $4 million contract, made it seem like something extraordinary would have to occur in the preseason for him to be the opening-day starter. Basically, he said a tie goes to Smith.
If their preseason performances are similar, "I would assume Geno would be the starter," Vick said. "Geno is making great strides. At the end of the year last year, he did a lot of remarkable things. He put his team in position to win and did everything he was asked to do."
Smith culminated a turnover-filled rookie season with a promising December, helping the Jets to a surprising 8-8 record. Instead of anointing him as the starter, the Jets signed Vick to provide competition. At the time, Vick referred to Smith as the starter, saying he would do everything he could to help him.
Vick hasn't changed his approach, although he acknowledged it's not easy to balance a mentor role with his desire to become a starter again.
"It's still tough right now," he said. "I'll admit it. I won't lie. You always want to be a starter. That's just the competitive nature in me. Hopefully that opportunity will come again one day."
Coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik are sticking to the company line, that no starting jobs have been determined. Reading between the lines, it's Smith's job to lose. The players recognize it.
"From where I stand, I do see Geno as the starter," wide receiver David Nelson said.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said, "[Smith] is the starter. He had a rookie year, the ups and downs of a rookie season. There's no reason to make hasty moves right now."
For his part, Smith downplayed all the talk about him retaining the job. He said his mindset is to approach it as if he's on the bottom of the depth chart.
"I try to work as if I'm the underdog," he said. "That's something that helps me get better, having that constant edge, that chip on my shoulder."
Smith called Vick "a wily vet," saying it's "awesome" to have him on the team. Vick said he wishes nothing but the best for Smith, although it's obvious he still believes he can perform at a high level.
"Thank God, I've been blessed with unbelievable talent and uncanny skill at the age 33, to move around the way I do," Vick said. "I don't take anything for granted. I go out and keep it all in perspective and try to be the best I can be."
4hBy Jackie MacMullan
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