Childhood buddy urges Sanchez to have fun again
Konrad Reuland pulled Mark Sanchez aside a few days ago and told
him to remember the good times they had growing up as kids.
Whether it was on the football field or basketball court in
southern California, the childhood buddies were always laughing.
Reuland urged his New York Jets teammate to think about the way it
used to be – before the big contracts, hefty expectations and harsh
”We just kind of focused on keeping things light, you know,
keeping things loose but also focused,” Reuland said Thursday.
”You have to remember to have fun out here. Granted, it’s a very
serious business and there’s a lot of money being thrown around
every which way and all that, but when it comes down to it, if
you’re not having fun, there’s no reason to play this game. It’s
too stressful of a job and there’s too much pressure to be
”To be miserable on top of everything, it just doesn’t make
The Jets’ backup tight end has played with and against Sanchez
since they were kids, so if anyone knows how the beleaguered
quarterback is handling things, it would be Reuland.
He was there when Sanchez was making his mark at Mission Viejo
High School and developing into a big-time college recruit. The two
went separate ways as Sanchez headed to Southern California, and
Reuland to Notre Dame for two years and then to Stanford – but they
never lost touch. Reuland watched from afar as Sanchez helped lead
the Jets to consecutive AFC title games in his first two NFL
seasons, then saw him struggle mightily last year.
They became teammates again in the offseason as Reuland was
claimed off waivers from San Francisco, giving Sanchez a friendly
sounding board as he goes through perhaps the toughest stretch of
his entire athletic career.
”Everybody wants to have some fame and fortune, but to me, it’s
like you always have to be on your best behavior,” Reuland said.
”And, let’s be honest, we’re all human. That doesn’t just pertain
to Mark, but in general. We all make mistakes and have errors in
judgment, but being under the microscope, I will never know what
it’s like to be Mark, in terms of that.”
Sanchez was benched for the first time in his career last Sunday
against Arizona, forced to stand on the sideline while the crowd
cheered Greg McElroy, who led New York to the only touchdown in a
7-6 victory. Coach Rex Ryan took a couple days to consider all his
options and then decided late Tuesday night that he was sticking
with Sanchez as his starter.
At least for the team’s game at Jacksonville on Sunday.
Beyond that, that’s all in Sanchez’s hands.
”In terms of what’s going on with Mark, I think I would be
lying if I said it wasn’t important for him to finish the year
strong,” Reuland said. ”That was said by Rex, that he’s going to
be held to the same standards as everybody else. I don’t really
have too many doubts that Mark’s going to rise to the occasion. I’m
pretty sure about that. It’s been an unfortunate past couple of
games for him. He’s going to bounce back.”
That’s precisely what Ryan is banking on.
Sanchez likely has a four-game redemption period to prove that
he can still be the franchise quarterback – or show the Jets that
they need to look elsewhere next season. With mostly mediocre
opposing defenses left on the schedule, Sanchez would appear primed
to step up.
”We’ll see on Sunday,” Sanchez said Wednesday. ”I think I’m
poised and ready to play a good game.”
If he doesn’t, it could cost him his job and status as the face
of the franchise. Ryan made the bold choice to stick with Sanchez,
and he disagrees that his own future could hinge on how Sanchez
”Obviously, we need to win,” Ryan said. ”This is a big
decision, and in determining wins and losses is the play of your
quarterback a lot of times. But, no, I don’t feel that my future’s
tied in with how we do things.”
Ryan chose Sanchez over McElroy, who quickly became a fan
favorite, and Tim Tebow, still dealing with two broken ribs. Some
fans and media insisted the decision was largely based on the Jets
owing Sanchez $8.25 million in guaranteed money next year – a
notion Ryan flatly denied.
The fact is, Sanchez will likely be in New York for at least
another season. Whether that’s as the starter or as a highly paid
backup will depend on what he does in the last stretch of the
Jacksonville’s defense is ranked 31st, Tennessee is 27th, while
San Diego is ninth – but its pass defense is 21st. Buffalo, the
Jets’ final opponent, is ranked 24th in overall defense. While some
might say whether he does well against inferior defenses won’t
prove much, it would at least be a step in the right direction.
”We feel like, obviously, Mark gives us the best chance to move
forward here,” offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said. ”I think,
first of all, Mark has a lot of pride in his work and has an
unbelievable passion for this game, and a tremendous work ethic.
You put all those things together, it’s a good combination.”
But, the numbers are troubling. Since the team’s bye last month,
Sanchez has two touchdowns, five interceptions and two lost fumbles
in four games. He has also been sacked 11 times. For the season, he
has thrown 12 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions, and lost five
”For the guys who have been here, they know that in the
toughest circumstances, I play my best,” Sanchez said. ”You never
want it to come to this point, but we’re here. … I’m disappointed
in myself, but I don’t want to let coach Sparano down. He doesn’t
show up here at 4 o’clock in the morning and stay here and not see
his family and do all the stuff he does for me to go out and throw
the ball to the other team.
”That has to be disheartening. That’s the part that really
bothers you. That’s why you want to fix it.”
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