Mark Sanchez says criticism 'gutless'

Updated: March 16, 2012, 11:34 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

In his most extensive comments on the locker-room turmoil that ripped apart the New York Jets, quarterback Mark Sanchez fired back at the unnamed teammates who criticized him in local newspaper articles after the 2011 season.

"It is a gutless thing to do," Sanchez said during an interview on "The Michael Kay Show" on ESPN1050 in New York, in reference to the anonymous attacks.

Later, in a 25-minute sitdown with the media, Sanchez added: "If you're not going to put your name on something, why waste anybody's time? Obviously, they had strong opinions about it, but not strong enough to say who they were. "

Sanchez also accepted his share of the blame for a feud with wide receiver Santonio Holmes, saying they recently cleared the air during a dinner meeting near Holmes' home in Orlando, Fla.

"I know it can work between us," Sanchez told the media prior to the Randall's Island Sports Foundation gala in Manhattan. "It's not a question of if, it's just a matter of when -- and that's now."

Sanchez broke his offseason silence last Friday night, when he signed a three-year, $40 million contract extension. Until then, he had avoided the media spotlight during the Jets' chaotic offseason.

On Thursday, he addressed the criticism that came his way after the Jets' disappointing 8-8 season, explaining why he decided to stay quiet for two months.

"Whether I come out and try to defend myself or not, it doesn't matter unless you go win games," he said. "That's the ultimate goal. That's the ultimate defense, winning games. Go win games next year and this is all a distant memory and a great lesson. That's the plan."

Sanchez insisted his well-documented rift with Holmes is history, saying they've been in "constant communication." They spent a couple of days together in mid-February, but he was guarded about providing details. He called it a "productive meeting."

The fourth-year quarterback said he "can't pinpoint the date" when things started to fray between the two, but he accepted some of the blame.

"I don't want to speak for Santonio, but I know I underachieved," Sanchez said. "I think there were some things I could've handled better with him and our communication."

Holmes hasn't spoken publicly since the end of the season. A $7.5 million guarantee for 2013 was triggered in February, meaning the Jets are locked into a total of $15 million in guarantees for the enigmatic receiver.

Sanchez said he and Holmes have joked about the friction, claiming it has been blown out of proportion.

"It was something where we just kind of smiled," he said. "When I first saw him, it was like, 'Man , this kind of took on a life of its own.' He said, 'You're telling me.'

"It got blown out a little more than it really needed to, but after underachieving -- as competitive as we are -- we were frustrated. That's fine; there's nothing wrong with that. But learning from that is most important."

Sanchez had only nice things to say about former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who resigned in January. But the quarterback admitted the Jets became too pass-happy early last season.

"It just felt like we lost our identity because we were so enamored with a bunch of new players," he said, referring to receivers Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason. "We fell victim to that a little bit."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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