Sanchez wants to play, Ryan says heal first

The Sanchise is taking a seat this week, and he’s not happy

about it.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan decided Wednesday that Mark Sanchez

will not play at Tampa Bay on Sunday because of a sprained right

knee, and Kellen Clemens will start in his place.

“It’s just a frustrating part of this game,” a clearly

irritated Sanchez said. “I asked him if I could at least try to

practice (Thursday) and he said, ‘No way, because I know if you

practice tomorrow, then you’re going to play and we don’t want to

run any risk of further injury.’ It’s difficult to handle.”

Ryan said he consulted with team doctors and made the call to

sit Sanchez, who’s “mad as a hornet” at him.

“He wants to play in the worst way and he’s going to play,”

Ryan said. “It’s just not going to be this week. I have a lot of

confidence in Kellen Clemens and I think that instead of delaying

this decision, I’m just going to make it now.”

Sanchez sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee

during the third quarter of the Jets’ 19-13 win over Buffalo in

Toronto last Thursday. He said he’s still not sure if the injury

occurred on his dive for a first down, or a previous play. He

didn’t appear to be noticeably hobbled when he stepped up and down

from the podium.

“I’d love to play,” he said. “I think if this was the Super

Bowl, I would definitely be playing.”

Sanchez had started every game this season since beating out

Clemens for the job. The injury came two days after the Jets

brought in Yankees manager Joe Girardi to help Sanchez learn how to

slide. Sanchez frustrated Ryan on the play as he was injured by

diving headfirst, with the coach calling him a “knucklehead.”

“It’s Rex’s decision right now and I’d love to play,” Sanchez

said when asked if he thought Ryan might have been sending a

message to him by sitting him. Ryan said through a team spokesman

that the decision was not punitive.

Sanchez didn’t practice Monday or Wednesday, and is expected to

get a fitted knee brace Thursday. He already wears a brace on the

left knee from a previous injury.

“At first, I guess I was upset that he wouldn’t even give me a

chance to practice and try to wait until the last second,” Sanchez

said. “At the same time, I understand that Kellen needs all the

reps as possible if he’s going to start this week. That’s totally

fair to him, and I understand where Rex is coming from, but that

doesn’t necessarily mean I agree or I’m happy about it.”

Ryan, who was optimistic about Sanchez’s chances Monday, said

there were no setbacks in the quarterback’s recovery that swayed

his decision. He added that Sanchez will be “shut down

completely” and not travel to Tampa Bay.

“The last time I felt like this, I was a redshirt freshman

where you don’t travel to the game,” Sanchez said. “It’s just a

weird feeling.”

The Jets (6-6) got back in the AFC playoff mix by winning their

last two games, and take on a Buccaneers team that has struggled to

a 1-11 record. Ryan said the quality of the opponent was not a

factor in deciding to go with Clemens, who’ll make his ninth NFL

start Sunday, and first since 2007 when he took over for a

struggling Chad Pennington.

“I think I’d be a little bit more concerned if it was my first

start ever,” Clemens said, “but I have some experience under my


Clemens came in after Sanchez was injured and was 1 for 2 for 14

yards, helping lead a scoring drive against Buffalo.

“You never like to see a teammate that’s injured, but it’s a

good opportunity for me,” Clemens said. “I’m excited to be out

there playing again.”

Clemens was drafted in the second round out of Oregon in 2006

and was considered the Jets’ quarterback of the future. He sat for

most of his rookie season, but started half the games the following

year with mediocre results. Clemens barely got on the field last

season with Brett Favre in town, and has only thrown three passes

this year.

“It hasn’t been an easy road sitting on the bench on Sundays,”

he said.

This is the last year on Clemens’ contract, and there’s some

speculation that he won’t be back next season – making this a

chance to showcase himself.

“It’s not about me,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show

for the last 13 weeks that I’ve been working hard and I didn’t pack

it in when Mark was named the starter. As far as other teams, it’s

about us going out and getting our seventh win and getting above

.500 and getting one step closer to the playoffs.”