Mark Sanchez will practice with the Jets on Wednesday, and if all goes well he could be back in the saddle Sunday when the Jets host the Atlanta Falcons at the Meadowlands. Sanchez, who has a sprained PCL, was back rehabbing his right knee in New Jersey while his teammates took care of business against the Bucs in Tampa. Even before the plane departed, linebacker Bart Scott sought out the rookie in the locker room and delivered some veteran wisdom.
" 'You need consecutive weeks of not tweaking it.' If we can go down and beat a team we should beat and allow him to heal, then I think that's a positive for us because that allows him to heal," said Scott of his message. " If he would have played that game and it wasn't all the way healed or he didn't have the extra 10 days — it gives him 17 days before his next game.
"If he tweaked it and we won, that thing is going to snowball and it's not like the next week or the week after that. It's like the month of playing on it where it gives out and then something else hurts. That's why it went from one knee to the next knee. If he didn't let that thing heal, it goes to the back and everything starts to knock out of alignment. I think once I explained it to him that way and the philosophy behind it, I think he understood it and it made it a little bit easier. But I'm sure it was real difficult for him to watch."
The NFL's No. 1-ranked defense put on a dominating display Sunday, holding the Bucs to three points, six first downs, 124 total yards and zero-for-14 on third down. Throw in three sacks and three interceptions and you get a near-perfect effort. Scott was all over the field, tying for a team high with seven stops (including two behind the line of scrimmage) and covering well when he dropped. The Madbacker is moving better and that's a frightful fact for opposition offenses.
"The hamstrings are healthy. They've been healthy for maybe three weeks where I can run and really have some form of explosion," he said on the latest installment of "Barking with Bart," on newyorkjets.com. "It's been tough. I pulled my hamstrings in camp and it's one of those things that I've been fighting though all year and if you ever pay attention to me when we wear the white pants, you'll see both of my hamstrings taped and you'll see these little hot 'plasties' to keep my hamstrings warm on the back. It's just something you have to fight through."
Scott, who is second on the Jets in tackles (91) and third in quarterback hits (12), did trip up his team a little bit with an unnecessary-roughness infraction in the third quarter that resulted in the Bucs' first first down and would eventually lead to the home team's only three points. Coach Ryan was not happy with Scott's rip of a Bucs special teamer's helmet and the subsequent hurl to the ground. Even though Scott was shoved initially, he admitted that he shouldn't have retaliated and it would have been better to walk away.
"He [Ryan] talked to me coming off the field, understanding that I'm a leader on this team and I have to lead by example. I'm usually pretty good on straddling the fence," said No. 57. " If you check over my résumé, I'm not totally sure but that might have been only my third or fourth personal foul ever and two of them weren't my fault."
After playing solidly against the Bucs, there is still room for improvement for the Jets as they look to remain in the playoff picture. Kellen Clemens played turnover-free in Tampa, but completed just 12 of his 23 pass attempts. And despite good field position early, the Jets settled for three Jay Feely field goals in the opening half before Thomas Jones broke through with a 33-yard scoring run late in the second stanza.
"I think we're going to have to get a couple of more completions, we're going to have to hit a couple of deep balls, because guys are really going to start to load up the box against Thomas," Scott said. "That was a team we should have soundly bit, but as the schedule gets a little more difficult, there's going to be more pressure put on us and put on the quarterback. We're going to have to open up the field a little bit and move the ball that way, and I think we have to capitalize a little bit more on field position early in the game to make that game over with a lot earlier."
The Jets probably wouldn't mind snow this weekend with a team from the South that plays in a dome heading north to the Meadowlands. QB Matt Ryan (turf toe) and RB Michael Turner (ankle) have both missed the Falcons' last two games and their status remains in question this week.
"I have tremendous faith in our defense that we can get the job done no matter if Turner plays or Ryan plays. It's a great opportunity," said the Madbacker. " I'm sure Rex will be lathered up because Mike Smith is from the Coach Billick coaching tree. It's one of those things where I'm sure those guys want to get it on. I think Rex had an opportunity to go there [Ryan reportedly was the frontrunner for the Falcons job in January 2008], but they chose Mike Smith the year before Rex accepted this job. So I'm sure there'll be extra motivation for us to get it done, aside from the fact that we need this win desperately to keep our hopes alive and play meaningful games the next week."
If the Jets can win out and get some help, they could make an improbable playoff run come true. The 6'2", 240-pound Scott, who played his first eight pro seasons with the Ravens, admitted to doing a little scoreboard-watching last week and finds himself in a unique position.
"For the first time in my life," he said, "I'm rooting for Pittsburgh."