Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow arrive
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- "Jersey Shore" has arrived in Mayberry RFD.
The New York Jets took their quarterback drama Thursday to a quiet town in upstate New York, but the first day of training camp was anything but peaceful.
With 82 media members swarming a roped-off area at the entrance of a college dorm, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow arrived about 45 minutes apart (Sanchez was first) to start what figures to be the most compelling quarterback situation in the NFL.
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On Day 1, they attempted to douse a simmering controversy -- wide receiver Santonio Holmes expressed skepticism in a recent interview on the viability of a two-quarterback system.
Coach Rex Ryan issued a mild rebuke, telling ESPN's Sal Paolantonio: "I brought Santonio in here to be a receiver, not to be the offensive coordinator."
Ryan mocked those who believe the two-quarterback system will fail, but he also refused to reveal his specific plans for Tebow as they pertain to the Wildcat package.
Ryan reiterated that Sanchez is "clearly our starting quarterback," but he hedged a bit when asked if there's a quarterback competition. He also raised eyebrows when asked if there's a chance Tebow could unseat Sanchez in the preseason, barring injury.
"I don't want to speculate on this, that or whatever," Ryan told reporters. "Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback."
It was a curious response from Ryan, who has spent the past four months trying to squelch any notion of a controversy. In fact, in a sitdown two days ago with Paolantonio that aired Thursday, Ryan said Sanchez, if healthy, will "absolutely" start Week 1 against the Buffalo Bills.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Ryan passed when given the chance to back his own words. But he expressed total confidence in his quarterback plan, which will utilize Tebow in a Wildcat-like role.
"I know the history of the league," Ryan said. "They say if you have two quarterbacks, you have no quarterbacks. Tell that to the San Francisco 49ers when they had Steve Young and Joe Montana. I think they won a few games, I'm not real sure."
Of course, Young and Montana never were part of a planned rotation.
The Jets haven't said how much Tebow will play, but some players speculated he will have a larger role than Brad Smith did two years ago in the Wildcat. The coaches are planning to use Tebow in the red zone at times, which could get tricky if Sanchez is hot.
I don't want to speculate on this, that or whatever. Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback.” -- Jets coach Rex Ryan
Sanchez, who said they will be using "two systems," professed his faith in new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who ran the Wildcat during his days as the Miami Dolphins' coach.
If Sanchez feels threatened by Tebow, he didn't show it. He apparently didn't see the Tebow placards in downtown Cortland. In fact, one storefront has a display that includes "Tebow Time" T-shirts and a big sign that says "Tebow-Mania."
"He can help out the team, and we're lucky to have him," Sanchez said. "It's going to work out well. If anyone knows how to make it work, it's coach Sparano. Whether Tim runs, throws, is on special teams, he's only going to be an asset. We're thrilled about his potential."
Tebow practiced in minicamp as the personal protector on the punt team, but "he won't have a paramount role" on special teams, according to coordinator Mike Westhoff.
Tebow continued to say all the right things, claiming, "I'll do whatever I'm asked to do." He said his relationship with Sanchez is "great."
"I have to make sure he doesn't pop off," Sanchez said jokingly of McElroy, who made headlines by ripping the Jets' dysfunctional locker room in an offseason interview.
The man who started the latest controversy -- Holmes -- didn't speak to the media. He was one of the latest players to arrive in Cortland. He also blew off the media at last month's minicamp.
Sanchez said he wasn't bothered by Holmes' comments about the two-quarterback system, insisting the mercurial receiver, with whom he clashed last season, has been supportive of the quarterbacks.
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"He just wants the rock; he doesn't care," Sanchez said, smiling.
In a symbolic way, the first day of camp represented a new chapter, as the Jets tried to move past the turmoil and infighting from last season. Sanchez said the team is in an "attack mode," focused on the season ahead.
That the camp is in Cortland, where the Jets trained the seasons they went to back-to-back AFC Championship Games, should be good for team harmony.
"There's a little magic in this place," Sanchez said. "It's our job as a team to find it here. This is where we need to be. This is the best place to shut the doors and focus on us and start something special."
They can shut the doors, but the world is watching through a window.
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