Jets general manager John Idzik on Mark Sanchez playing behind backup line vs. Giants: 'It was not a mistake'
Darryl Slater/The Star-Ledger By Darryl Slater/The Star-Ledger
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on September 14, 2013 at 2:38 PM, updated September 14, 2013 at 2:44 PM
Jets general manager John Idzik remains steadfast in his stance that the organization did not err in playing quarterback Mark Sanchez in an Aug. 24 preseason game against the Giants, behind backup offensive linemen – a situation in which Sanchez injured his right (throwing) shoulder.
Idzik spoke to reporters Saturday after the Jets placed Sanchez on injured reserve with designation to return. He will be eligible to return to practice for the Nov. 3 game against New Orleans (the Jets’ ninth game) and will be eligible to rejoin the active roster and play for the Nov. 10 game against Buffalo (the Jets’ 10th game, after an off week).
Saturday was the three-week mark since Sanchez’s injury, and Idzik stood by his previous statement that the Jets didn’t make a mistake by inserting Sanchez against the Giants, even though it appeared, at that point, that Sanchez was a better option than rookie Geno Smith to start in Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
Idzik previously said the Jets wanted to get a complete look at Smith and Sanchez in the Giants game, and that’s why Sanchez played. Idzik said coach Rex Ryan was carrying out the organization’s plan to get that thorough assessment when he put Sanchez on the field.
“No, it was not a mistake,” Idzik said. “I think we’ve covered that topic. We’re not going to look back. Unfortunately, injuries are a part of our game. As I said before, we feel terribly that Mark was injured, and Mark feels worse. We want him out there. He wants to be out there. It happened and now we have to deal with the hand we have, and that’s precisely what we’re doing.”
Sanchez said all the politically correct things on a teleconference with reporters – a teleconference arranged by the Jets – after Idzik finished his call.
When asked for his feelings about being put in against the Giants, Sanchez said, “There’s no looking back. What’s done is done. I’m injured. That’s just the fact of the matter. Holding any grudges like that, I honestly think, in my personal opinion and I don’t know if anybody else agrees with me, but I don’t think you heal right if you hold grudges. I don’t think I’m going to get 100 percent if I’m going through my rehab thinking, ‘Gosh, what a crappy situation I’m in.’ I don’t think like that. It doesn’t help you. That negative stuff doesn’t help.”
So this is where Sanchez is now, sidelined for almost two months. He can rehab with the team and participate in meetings. He can do everything except practice and play. Still, he and Idzik said doctors believe Sanchez can continue to rehab his shoulder and not have surgery at this time. As for whether Sanchez will need surgery down the road, Idzik said Sanchez will be re-evaluated around the time he is set to come off IR.
“I think right now, the consensus (from doctors) is the non-surgical approach that we’re taking is the proper approach for Mark,” Idzik said. “I think we just have to take it and see how it goes.”
Surgery almost certainly would have ended Sanchez’s season, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could undergo surgery after the season.
“Listen, surgery is a possibility in any of these injuries,” Sanchez said. “But the most important thing to know from all these doctors, who are all on the same page and doing the same thing, is that my rehab is going great and we want to keep it up. That’s where we’re at. I’m not blind-sided by the IR situation. This whole thing has been out in the open and we feel great about it.”
Sanchez sought additional medical opinions this week on his shoulder, including a visit to the renowned orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. The visit to Andrews reportedly confirmed Sanchez had a torn labrum. Sanchez declined to detail his injury Saturday, but said doctors agree that he can continue to rehab his shoulder rather than undergo surgery right now. Sanchez said he talked to “a handful” of doctors.
“They said, ‘Hey, you’re doing the right things,’” Sanchez said. “So unless everybody is lying and everybody has it out to get me, then I think we’re OK. We’re on the right track. Everything is going well.”
Sanchez said he still hopes to be able to throw by the end of this IR period.
“That’s the plan,” he said. “That’s why we made this decision (for short-term IR).”
He said he spoke to the NFL Network on Thursday because he saw an ESPN report that he was likely to undergo season-ending surgery. Sanchez told the NFL Network that he was upset about getting hurt because “I won the competition” with Smith to start in Week 1 against Tampa Bay.
“I’m not going to say much about that (interview) other than that was false report about my medical health from ESPN,” said Sanchez, who declined to speak with reporters after Thursday’s loss at New England. “Rich (Eisen of the NFL Network) gave me an opportunity to clear that up.
“The only thing I can say about competing for the job or winning a competition is the same thing I’ve said since the spring, that I’m going to continue to try to win the job. I’ve said that from Day 1. I’ve planned to be the starter since I was a rookie, so nothing has changed there. Now, I’m in a position where I’ve got to wait a little time. I’ll come back hopefully in eight weeks and be ready to play.”
Since he feels like he won the competition, does he believe the starting job should be his when he returns, if he is able to play?
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, and I’m going to do everything I can to play and compete, like I always have,” he said. “That’s just the way I am. I’m expecting to be the starter. I always have been.”
He also said he “absolutely” feels like he has a future with the Jets.
Now, the Jets’ brass might have different ideas about making Sanchez the starter if he returns from IR and also about his future with the team.
Through two games, the Jets are 1-1 with Smith. Idzik isn’t committing to Smith as the starter past the Jets’ next game, Sept. 22 against Buffalo. The Jets’ other options are Brady Quinn and Matt Simms – not exactly franchise quarterbacks. So you get the idea here. Despite Idzik’s “week-to-week” mantra, it seems likely Smith will continue to start, as long as he is healthy. And it is possible, too, that the Jets could decide to part ways with Sanchez and his lucrative salary after the season.
Just like Idzik used the “week-to-week” answer when asked about his starting quarterback situation, and why he wouldn’t commit to Smith as the starter for the entire year, he also said he isn’t looking past this season, when asked if he wants Sanchez on the team in 2014. That’s about what you’d expect Idzik to say.
This is something of a no-lose situation for the Jets. If Sanchez can’t come back when his IR stint is up, and ends up needing surgery … well, Smith was likely to be the starter for the rest of the season anyway. If Sanchez is able to return, he gives the Jets a seasoned backup in case Smith gets hurt, which seems like the only way Sanchez will see the field this season in a meaningful situation. Remember, Smith sprained his ankle in his first professional game, last month, so injuries do happen in the NFL and backups are needed.
“We’re really doing this (short-term IR) in keeping with our primary goal of giving Mark every chance to return to practice and play this season, and paying attention to where he is in the rehab process and how he can best do that,” Idzik said. “Originally (after the injury), his prognosis was pretty unpredictable. He had had a history of excellent rehab. He is a diligent worker. He in fact had a history with his right shoulder and a very similar type of injury a few years back that he was able to rehab and not miss any time. So that’s why we took the approach of day-to-day and felt that that was prudent. Again, our primary goal was to get Mark back as soon and as safe as possible.”
Idzik said that after reviewing Sanchez’s additional medical opinions from this week, the “consensus” was short-term IR was the best approach because “we probably should not push the pace or push the envelope too much with his rehab. Knowing Mark, he’s always going to push it, but the smart thing to do would be to take a little bit more time and let the rehab progress at a more manageable pace.”
Idzik said the six-week period of returning to practice – the parameters of the short-term IR – “kind of marries up with what we’re hearing from the latest medical information, the latest recommendations (about Sanchez’s rehab), pretty much a consensus. We feel like this is a good course of action for Mark and it will continue to give Mark every chance to return to the field, which is the primary objective.”
Idzik has now used his only short-term IR spot for the season on a player who likely will be a backup. Idzik said he did it because “he’s a quarterback. He’s a very important player to our team. That designation is tailor-made for somebody like Mark.”
Short-term IR was a consideration for Sanchez, Idzik acknowledged Saturday, even though he and Jets coach Rex Ryan publicly held out hope that Sanchez could recover.
“This is not unusual,” Idzik said of Sanchez going from day-to-day to out for almost two months. “As you get into a rehab, everyone’s body is different. Every single injury is different. So if there was any chance for Mark to do that (return, like he did from the other shoulder injury), certainly we wanted to afford him that chance. That’s why we listed him day to day. It wasn’t misdiagnosed at all. We were literally taking it day to day.
“In the back of our minds, we did consider: Do we use this type of designation? But obviously, the last two weeks, we felt like there was a chance he could come back. Then once we realized at this point, the general medical opinion was: Let’s slow everything down a little bit and let’s let this thing heal and that way, his prognosis going forward would be much more solid.
“We were hopeful that Mark could make his way back within the first week or within the first couple weeks. When it became evident that it wasn’t going to happen, then I think the pendulum started to swing more toward this short-term IR as a real viable option. I think what really supported that is the different medical perspectives that Mark received this week. They were pretty much all in concert. With us knowing it would take about a six-week term to really thoroughly vet this out, then we felt like it was appropriate to use that designation. As recently as the (53-man roster cut on Aug. 31), and going forward the next two weeks, we were hopeful to get Mark back in the very short term.”