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Down Day on Field Can't Slow Up Sanchez


2009 Draft Jets First Round Pick - Mark Sanchez

How was Mark Sanchez handling the ribbing from his teammates over his GQ pictorial that came out earlier this week? All you had to know was that as he was about to climb into the media scrum around his locker today, he turned to the locker room and lifted his T-shirt up and down.

"What do you think, guys?" he yelled to his teammates. "Shirt off? On?"

It was Sanchez's first interview with Jets reporters (he kept his shirt on) since he joined the veterans for OTA practices on Monday. So after seeing a number of photo reproductions from his "Best of the Beach" pictorial and a few "David Hasselhoff" references around the locker room, he fielded a few more questions about the treatment he got.

"That's what's supposed to happen as a rookie," the first-round QB said with his Pacific Coast smile. "I threw a lob going right for them and they hit it out of the park. ... It was good."

What also was good was how Sanchez handled the more pertinent football questions. Since reporters weren't invited to see, as head coach Rex Ryan named them, his "good" practice on Tuesday or his "bad" workout on Monday, all they had to go by was his "ugly" performance today.

There were some connections in position drills, but when it came to 7-on-7, red zone, two-minute, Sanchez, working with the second offense, kept missing connections. On one 11-on-11 series, he was "sacked," then threw three incompletions, one of which was rejected in the backfield and another was batted down by rookie CB Emanuel Cook.

And after one red zone decision to pass up a first-read throw for a possible touchdown, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer gave him an earful.

"It was a good day, uh, for the defense," he said. "They got after us. It was good, though. For a rookie playing against like this, you can't ask for anything better. They're tough, they're fast, they know exactly what they're doing, and they know I'm not quite up to speed yet."

Ryan was not concerned with the day of struggle after so many positives since Sanchez arrived with the tradeup for the fifth pick of the draft not quite a month ago.

"It's kind of what we expected," the coach said. "We're throwing him to the wolves The scheme we have in on offense, we're just throwing it all at them. There's no telling how many plays Schotty's got, but there's a bunch of them. He's learning that and he's probably seeing defenses he's never seen, different kinds of coverages, blitzes.

"He's had his moments this week. Today he had some rough spots as well. But again, that's to be expected."

Another thing to be expected is media and fan worries that the Jets, searching for their next Broadway quarterback, have wound up with a Hollywood QB instead. It's a silly notion, but both Sanchez and Ryan shot down the theory that Sanchez is already being distracted by the bright lights in the big city.

"That was two months ago," Sanchez said of the GQ shoot with model Hilary Rhoda. "That's almost like a bucket-list kind of deal. 'You're going to do a photo shoot with a supermodel? Like, are you kidding me? You got it.' I'm all about football. I told [the Jets] ahead of time what was going to happen so we're on the same page here. It was a fun thing, but that's over. It's all about football."

"It was kind of funny," Rex said at his early afternoon news conference. "He gets in this magazine [project] before the draft, he does it, and now he's doing too much? It's not even the season. It's not like the guy's going to have this kind of distraction during the season. ... But he's probably wishing he didn't do it. They're having a good time with it."

And Sanchez, despite the rough day, continues to exude a glass-is-three-quarters-full approach no matter what's thrown at him.

"It was a tough day, but that's what these days are all about," he said. "Staying after, talking with Kellen [Clemens] through everything — he's been great. It was one of those days you need. It's the third day I've been here, so it was a good day, a productive day. I learned a lot."

And just knowing the 22-year-old with the pecs to die for can morph from "tough day" to "one of those days" to "a good day, a productive day" all in the same sentence tells us all a lot about Mark Sanchez.

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