Geno Smith gingerly took a few steps on the practice field, his ankle clearly bothering him, when Marty Mornhinweg yelled over to him.
"Don’t limp! Don’t limp!" the New York Jets offensive coordinator implored the rookie quarterback.
Smith did all he could not to, fully participating in practice and looking mostly sharp Sunday despite a sore right ankle that shortened his NFL debut at Detroit on Friday night.
"He’s going to coach me hard, and he’s going to coach all of us hard," Smith said. "That’s the way he is, he’s an old-school coach. He told me about Brett Favre and the way he played pretty much through every single injury.
"So I try to be the same way."
Smith was cleared for practice by the Jets’ trainers Sunday morning after twisting the ankle on a play in the third quarter of the New York’s 26-17 loss. He was rolling out with the ball and took an odd step.
"It was one of those freak accidents," Smith said. "Luckily, it wasn’t too significant and I was able to get up and get back to practice."
An X-ray and MRI exam revealed what Smith called "great results," and he was eager to get back under center.
"I don’t plan on missing any days," he said.
After all, he’s competing with Mark Sanchez for the starting job. Plus, he wants to make sure he earns his teammates’ respect.
"Those guys, I mean, they’re hitting non-stop," Smith said. "It’s a contact sport, very physical and a very violent game and those guys are putting their bodies on the line, so little injuries such as an ankle shouldn’t keep me out of practice. It’s important to show those guys that no matter what happens, I’m going to always come out there and give my best."
He had a solid practice with the first-team offense and threw consecutive touchdown passes to Konrad Reuland in goal-line drills. He had two others to Jeff Cumberland in red-zone drills, but was intercepted by Antonio Cromartie.
Smith appeared a bit hobbled when he dropped back to pass on some plays, saying he was "slower" than usual, but was pretty mobile — and accurate — on rollouts during practice.
"I had a bit of a limp, and my ankle isn’t 100 percent, but it’s only been a day since the occurrence," Smith said. "It’s just about continuing to get rehab and treatment, and seeing how it goes day by day."
Smith said it was the first time in his football career that he has dealt with an ankle injury, and he even refused to call it a sprain — although the ankle was heavily taped.
With there still a long way to go in the preseason with three games left, it seemed as though sitting out a day or two of practice would be a good call. Coach Rex Ryan said he leans on the trainers to make that determination, and Smith said sitting out never entered his mind.
"I think this is one of those injuries where it’s best to push through it, it’s best to get out here," he said. "You don’t want the ankle to get stiff and get tight on you, so the more you can flex it, the more you can get out here and run, it helps. It helps strengthen the ankle, helps me get back into the groove, as well as stay on pace with the progress I’ve been making throughout camp."
The quarterback competition is still open, and Smith could get the start — if healthy enough — against the Jacksonville Jaguars at home on Saturday night. However, Ryan acknowledged that the team hasn’t planned that far ahead.
"We still are going to get through the week," Ryan said. "There could be some factors that could change things."
Those include the status of Smith’s ankle, and perhaps how Sanchez looks in practice.
The fifth-year veteran got the start at Detroit and was intercepted on an early screen pass that Ziggy Ansah returned for a touchdown. It was a tough beginning that brought back memories of last season, when Sanchez had 26 turnovers and was benched for his inability to secure the football.
But Sanchez bounced back and had a respectable night against the Lions, finishing 10 of 13 for 125 yards and a touchdown pass.
"I liked the way he responded," Ryan said.
Smith didn’t do much to move ahead of Sanchez, finishing 6 of 7 for 47 yards with no scoring drives before leaving with the injury.
"We had a few third downs that we didn’t convert," Smith said. "And as the quarterback, of course, we want to work on that as a team, but you also want to put some of that burden on yourself because that’s what this game’s about, converting those first downs.
"Usually, it depends on the quarterback to do so."
NOTES: Ryan opened his news conference by showing some film of the Lions game and pointing out some good plays by Jeff Cumberland, who he calls "a complete tight end," and impressive pursuit angles taken by rookie DL Sheldon Richardson. … RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) didn’t participate in team drills, as was originally planned. He has missed them all summer, but was "limited" at practice. Ivory still hopes to play against Jacksonville after missing the preseason opener. … RB Joe McKnight (head injury) was back on the field for the first time in over a week, but didn’t fully participate as he wore a red no-contact jersey. He refused to talk about the injury, or about his arrest two weeks ago for traffic violations in New Jersey. "I’m not getting into that right now," McKnight repeated several times. … FB Lex Hilliard (ribs) also wore a no-contact jersey, while LB Garrett McIntyre practiced after injuring a knee against the Lions. OL Dennis Landolt (knee) was out. RB John Griffin has what Ryan called "a severe leg injury."