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Stafford, Sanchez helping each other with pressures of being rookie QBs - NFL.com


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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are rich beyond comprehension long before throwing their first official NFL pass.

The quarterbacks have been anointed as saviors -- Stafford for a Detroit Lions team that went winless in 2008, and Sanchez for a New York Jets franchise that hasn't tasted the Super Bowl in 40 years.

The accompanying pressure can be overwhelming, so Stafford and Sanchez often find themselves seeking someone who understands their situation. They call each other.

79860.jpg Matthew Stafford, QB

Detroit Lions

Age: 21

Height: 6-2 Weight: 225

College: Georgia

Experience: Rookie

79858.jpg Mark Sanchez, QB

New York Jets

Age: 22

Height: 6-2 Weight: 227

College: USC

Experience: Rookie

Already linked as the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft, Stafford and Sanchez have forged a separate bond. They go back and forth as a sounding board for the other while attempting to turn potential into performance.

"We're just learning, playing football," said Stafford, the No. 1 overall pick who went off the board four slots ahead of Sanchez. "Obviously, during the season, you want to win football games. That's the No. 1 priority. But at this point, we're just trying to learn and give ourselves a chance to be competitive during training camp and get a chance to get on the field."

The friendship between Stafford and Sanchez started last summer, when they were counselors at the same camp for elite high school quarterbacks. They've kept in contact regularly since, talking about practically every imaginable topic.

On Tuesday, at the NFL rookie symposium, Stafford and Sanchez were on the same field together -- throwing around footballs with dozens of kids brought in to interact with the game's newest professionals. But in down moments during this mandatory event -- which educates first-year NFL players on how to handle things such as personal conduct, finances and security -- the two young quarterbacks tend to huddle together.

"We talk so much about how's the playbook coming, what are the guys like in the locker room, have they treated you OK," Sanchez said. "Both of our situations have been very similar. Obviously, we're in different markets, but you're a rookie quarterback, you just signed your contract, you and your family are financially secure. There's a dynamic to that. It means a lot to be able to talk to someone."

The biggest lesson that many of the rookies took from the symposium, Stafford said, was that they will have to say "no" a lot -- especially when it comes to people asking for money, gifts or favors from the new millionaires.

"I've had to do it for a while," said Stafford, who spent most of last season at the University of Georgia being touted as the possible No. 1 pick.

Of course, neither Stafford nor Sanchez is all that removed from being a kid, either, so they fit right in with the high schoolers.

"All about the kids, today," said Sanchez, who posed for photos, signed countless autographs on the backs of T-shirts and has been known to keep a Sharpie marker on his keychain in case the mood strikes him to scrawl his name. "All about the kids."

Sanchez, who starred at USC, already is a huge name in the massive New York market. He has met Tiger Woods and Derek Jeter, both of whom offered their advice on how to handle all the attention that Sanchez will draw while playing in the Big Apple.

"You've got to be smart," Sanchez said. "You've got to protect yourself and protect your team."

Stafford hasn't quite commanded that sort of Woods-and-Jeter attention, even though he was the top pick. Even on Tuesday, when the quarterbacks walked onto the converted flag-football field -- it's typically a driving range at the PGA National compound -- within moments of one another, cameras and heads quickly started turning toward Sanchez. Stafford, meanwhile, seemed almost invisible by comparison, and he didn't mind whatsoever.

"We're both pretty similar, easy-going guys," Stafford said. "Pressure really doesn't get to us too much. We just talk about how much fun it is to be living the dream."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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