Jets' QB situation still up in the air

Geno Smith, left, and Mark Sanchez participate in

Geno Smith, left, and Mark Sanchez participate in a practice in Florham Park, N.J. (Aug. 19, 2013) (Credit: AP)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets apparently like a good cliffhanger. With their quarterback situation in chaos because of Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury, neither coach Rex Ryan, Sanchez nor rookie Geno Smith offered much clarity on the injury, the battle for the starting job or the plan for the final preseason game Thursday night.

The Jets previously announced that Sanchez is day-to-day with the injury he suffered Saturday night and won't play against the Eagles, and Ryan toed that company line Monday. It was almost as if he turned sideways, as he famously did in Saturday's postgame news conference, and sidestepped every question.

Asked who the starting quarterback will be Thursday, Ryan said, "I'd just as soon wait and see how this week plays out and then we'll make that determination.''

Asked about a timetable for naming the starter for the opener against Tampa Bay, Ryan said, "We're not going to rush the decision until we're completely comfortable with that decision . . . There's still one more preseason game to be played, and I'm not going to put myself or anybody in a box.''

During the portion of practice that was open to the media, Sanchez rode a stationary bicycle but didn't grip the right handlebar and exercise his sore passing arm. Speaking later in the locker room, the fifth-year quarterback held out hope of being ready for Week 1 but admitted he's uncertain of getting the start even if he is healthy.

"That's the goal,'' he said of playing against the Bucs. "Just keep our fingers crossed and take it day to day.''

After Smith threw three first-half interceptions against the Giants and later took a safety when he inadvertently stepped out of the end zone, it seemed as if Sanchez had won the job by default. But the injury suffered when he was hit by defensive lineman Marvin Austin after entering the game with 11 minutes left clouded the picture.

"I feel like I've put together a great camp,'' Sanchez said when asked if he had earned the starting job. "It's been my best camp. That decision is going to be up to the coaches, and so we'll see.''

Sanchez seemed surprised when he was told to go into a meaningless game with a lineup of backups, but he said he was told before the game that he should be ready to play.

"It's not my job to worry about when you're going in, who's in, what string,'' Sanchez said. "If they call your number, you've got to play . . . I'm not here to second-guess the coaches. If they call you to play, you better be ready to play, and I was.''

For his part, Ryan declined to express any regrets about playing Sanchez except for the fact that he got hurt. But after accepting full responsibility on Saturday for making that call, Ryan took a different tack when asked about the input of general manager John Idzik into determining the quarterback rotation in preseason.

"John and I are really shoulder to shoulder in the decisions we make,'' Ryan said. "We are side by side on every decision that goes into it, who plays, who's making the team, all those things.''

Given the inexperience behind Sanchez, it's natural to wonder if the Jets are in the market for a veteran quarterback as insurance, but although Ryan said they look for upgrades at every position, he expressed faith in Smith and in the two players battling for the third-string job, third-year man Greg McElroy and rookie Matt Simms.

"Geno has done a lot of really good things,'' Ryan said. "Did he have a rough night [Saturday]? Yes, absolutely, he did. But I feel confident in him. I feel confident in Simms because he's earned respect. And the thing about Greg is that he thinks he's the smartest guy in the building because he is. Obviously, I feel good about those guys.''

But for now, the Jets' quarterback position is too much of a mess for anyone to decipher.

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