- Jane McManus, Reporter & Columnist, espnW.com
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jets quarterback Geno Smith took most of the reps in critical moments and worked with the first-team offensive line and defense, while Michael Vick worked with the twos, during Wednesday's OTAs. Yet afterward, Smith held to the company line that there is a quarterback competition for the starting spot.
"I'm looking forward to working with Mike," Smith said. "When I was with Mark [Sanchez], we did a good job of doing the same thing; we competed hard. That's what we do around here. We're going to compete on a daily basis, all of us, Matt Simms, Tajh Boyd, every guy on this team is competing. It's a good sign for this team because it makes us get better day to day."
The Jets may just be choosing to define competition a bit differently. Coach Rex Ryan alluded to that last week, when he pointed to the unlikelihood that, say, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson were in any real way fighting for their starting jobs -- it's more of a philosophy.
So Smith can say he's competing and Vick can say it's not an open competition, and they can both be right.
"We talk about the competition, but I think there's different forms of it," Ryan said. "We've been on this Mike Vick thing and Geno and all that type of stuff, and no one can figure it out. Well, we got it figured out."
Still, it may be a little awkward for Smith to have teammates looking up to the guy who is acting as the backup during practices. Veteran Jeremy Kerley, the longest-tenured receiver on the team, said as much Wednesday.
"I'm trying not to be star-struck," Kerley said. "[Vick] was my guy growing up. ... Just to catch passes from him is a special thing."
Smith didn't have a sterling rookie season, with 12 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions. But at 23, he's a full decade younger than Vick.
"I try to mentor all the quarterbacks," Vick said. "I'm still learning every day and I've been playing a lot longer than those guys and I probably won't be playing as long as they're going to play from here on out."
For one, Smith returns with more skills than he had upon arrival a year ago.
"Obviously I'm not out here head-spinning as much as I did last year," Smith said. "I'm still learning, I'm still studying it just as hard as I did last year. I've had time to figure out every single nuance of this offense and also figure out my teammates; get the timing down with the wideouts, get the rhythm with the offensive line and just kind of put my stamp on this team."
Smith said he's already benefited from having Vick as a teammate.
"Having Mike has made me better, being a second-year quarterback has made me better," Smith said. "But everything is all the result of hard work. That's my mantra."
Last week, Vick was made available to the media and reasserted that it wasn't an open competition, while a miscommunication between Smith and the Jets' public relations staff kept him from appearing. Smith was asked why he and Vick had seemed to hold contradictory opinions -- was it also a miscommunication?
"I don't think there's a miscommunication within this locker room," Smith said. "The communication is great -- we're all on the same page. I think it's all a matter of semantics. You put a word here or there and it changes the whole sentence."
Last week, Ryan seemed to imply that the Jets are using the idea of competition as a motivational tool, but in reality, some competitions are more intense than others.
"It's probably unrealistic to think you can have it at every position," he said. "But certainly we have competition and competition sometimes has to be maybe manufactured.
"You look at our defensive line, there's great competition there. It might not be for who's pushing this guy, but they push each other. They're all young. They came in together and they push each other, so I think that's a good thing as well."
Geno Smith and Michael Vick haven't changed their positions on the Jets' purported quarterback battle, but maybe coach Rex Ryan has.