If leadership counts for anything, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez might have a leg-up on teammate Geno Smith for the starting position.
Sanchez has been the engineer of Jets West Camp, a three-day get-together at his former high school for several of his teammates, which concludes Saturday.
The itinerary includes classroom work to study film and plays, as well as on-field passing drills.
The camp has given some of Sanchez’s teammates a chance to see him in a somewhat new role.
”He’s kind of an extension of the coaching staff,” said tight end Konrad Reuland. ”It shows that he’s taking the initiative and you always want that out of a leader. When we have our meetings, he runs the meetings. I think that’s important. I think guys respect the fact that he puts this on. He’s done a good job with it.”
For Sanchez, it’s all about the competition and preparing for it. Being the star quarterback at Mission Viejo High School and USC helped him realize the importance of being prepared on the field, and building bonds off of it.
The camp’s schedule included off-the-field activities that allowed the players to build a rapport and grow closer to each other. Thursday’s extracurricular activity included go kart racing, while Friday’s passing drills ended with a water-balloon toss.
”Any time you spend time away from the (Jets’ training) facility to be out here with the guys is never a bad thing,” Sanchez said. ”Teams that are closer generally do pretty well. You just trust those players. You develop that rapport off the field.”
This is the fourth year that Jets West Camp has been held. It is strictly voluntary and Sanchez doesn’t worry about who attends and who doesn’t. One noticeable no-show was Smith, who remained in Florida. He claimed that he wasn’t aware of the camp. Sanchez said he invited everyone.
”I don’t hold it against any of the guys that can’t make it,” he said. ”I probably should have said that right away. There are no hard feelings about anything like that.
”Guys are on vacation and some guys are getting married. They’re doing stuff. There are plenty of other things they could be doing. If they can make the sacrifice and be here, awesome. If they can’t, totally fine.”
Smith wasn’t the only Jets quarterback to miss this week’s trip to Orange County. Greg McElroy and Matt Simms were also no-shows. That prompted Sanchez to call on USC quarterbacks Max Wittek and Cody Kessler — the winners of the water-balloon contest — to help out when he needed a break.
Sanchez is aware that things haven’t gone his or the Jets’ way recently. He’s not hiding from the mistakes he has made on or off the field. That includes a recent video on which he was caught exposing his bare backside while dancing with two women.
”The video is a little embarrassing but it’s a good reminder that you’re in the spotlight and you need to be ever-watchful and careful of who you’re with and what you’re doing,” he said. ”Whether it’s harmless, whether you’re in the privacy of your own setting, you feel like everything is fine and safe, you’ve just got to be careful. That’s just a good example of that.”
After last season’s 8-8 record, the Jets brought in a new general manager in John Idzik and a new offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg. Shortly thereafter, Idzik announced that there would be a competition for the team’s quarterback spot.
”This is a league that changes very quickly,” Sanchez said. ”It’s `What have you done for me lately?’
”(On) teams that don’t make the playoffs a couple of years in a row, coaches get fired, players get traded, things change, organizations blow up and start over. We’re with a new regime, John Idzik wants a quarterback competition. I’m still here, let’s compete. That’s all I can control. That’s really what I’m focused on. I can’t worry about anything in the past except getting better from it and moving on.”
Sanchez is looking forward to the competition with Smith — and to retaining his starting spot.
”Any kind of competition is good,” he added. ”When it comes down to competition, I put my money on myself. I bet on myself and go play and go win the job.”
He’s not alone. Sanchez’s teammates are equally as passionate about turning things around for the organization. They see Jets West Camp as a good place to start.
”This is great because I’m behind on offense,” said tight end Kellen Winslow, who had 75 receptions in 2011 but played in only one game last season because of contractual issues. ”I need to catch up. I’m just coming in trying to be a piece of the puzzle, trying to make plays for the team.
”In this league you’ve got to get better or you’re just getting worse. It’s all about repetition and getting better every day. I’m lucky to have job. I’m happy to be back.”