- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Smith's main competition, Mark Sanchez, said the thought of not starting the opener hasn't crossed his mind.
"I don't think like that," the embattled Sanchez said Thursday after the Jets' practice at organized team activities. "I'm planning on playing and I'm planning on starting. I don't plan on [losing]."
If public expressions of confidence decided the competition, Sanchez would win easily.
One week after being chided by Jets coach Rex Ryan for throwing three interceptions in an OTA practice, Sanchez's mood seemed brighter than it had been in a long time. He said last week's bad performance was an aberration, not an accurate reflection of his offseason.
"[The coaches] have the luxury of seeing the entire body of work this offseason, and they know I'm working toward good things," said Sanchez, alluding to the fact that only 2-of-6 OTA practices have been open to the media. "It's the best I've felt in a while. I'm putting together one of my best offseasons."
Sanchez made similar comments last offseason and responded with his worst season, which included 26 turnovers for the second straight year. Sanchez was benched late in the season; offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was fired, to be replaced by Marty Mornhinweg.
Mornhinweg, installing a West Coast system, raised eyebrows last week by saying Sanchez's accuracy -- one of the weaknesses in his game -- has been "sky high" in practice.
"It's good," said Sanchez, a 55 percent career passer. "It's where I want it to be. ... Accuracy-wise, I'm feeling great."
Ryan didn't sound as enthusiastic, but he sensed that Sanchez's confidence is back -- something that took a beating amid last season's turmoil, which included the Tim Tebow distraction.
"I don't know how much it left him, but it's safe to say that maybe some of his confidence was shaken a little last year," said Ryan, reluctantly acknowledging the obvious. "He's feeling good about himself."
Sanchez was sharp in Thursday's practice, completing 8-of-12 passes in team drills. Smith, too, was on his game, going 8 for 9 -- and the lone incompletion was a drop.
Sanchez worked exclusively with the starting unit, but there have been days when Smith had led the No. 1 offense. Ryan said it's too early to proclaim a front-runner.
Smith opted for the politically correct answer when asked if he'd be disappointed to begin the season on the bench.
"Not at all," he said. "The coaches are going to choose who they feel is best for the team. It's not my job to worry about it. I'm going to give it my best shot, and we'll see what happens from there."
Smith likely didn't want to make any bold statements, reviving the brash-rookie perception, but he'd be crushed if he doesn't get the starting job, according to a person close to Smith.
"It wouldn't hurt my confidence," Smith said. "It would just mean I need to continue to work hard. I have confidence that eventually one day I'll get there, but it's going to take some time. That happens to every quarterback. Every situation is different. I'm focusing on my situation."
Ryan wasn't buying the low-key approach.
"Whether he said that or not, I'm pretty sure he wants to win the starting job," Ryan said. "From a competitive standpoint, you want to be the guy who gets the nod."
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