MISSION VIEJO, Ca. -- For Mark Sanchez, his "Jets West" get-together with his receivers two weeks in advance of training camp is a home game, the first step toward re-establishing himself as the Jets' starting quarterback. If rookie Geno Smith wants to take that title, he needs to score a knockout in the approaching training camp battle because Sanchez won't go down without a fight.
Smith was a no-show for "Jets West," but Sanchez was careful not to read anything into it, noting that backups Greg McElroy and Chris Simms also did not attend. "I don't hold it against any of the guys that can't make it," Sanchez said when asked Friday if he was disappointed in Smith. "There are no hard feelings . . . It's not a big deal."
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Perhaps Smith instinctively understood he'd be taking a backseat to Sanchez, who was staging this camp for the fourth straight year. It's his show from the classroom and film sessions to the workouts he holds for three days at his former high school in Mission Viejo.
"He handles himself like a coach in meetings," new tight end Kellen Winslow said of Sanchez. "I'm really impressed with him. He knows what everybody is doing."
Experience -- good and bad -- is what Sanchez has going for him as he prepares for a QB competition sanctioned by new general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan, his previous ally. There were AFC title game appearances his first two seasons followed by 52 Sanchez-related turnovers the next two seasons. At the same time, Sanchez is just learning the West Coast offense implemented by new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
"Having a camp like this really helps me to continue to speak the language and master it," Sanchez said.
He knows his experience counts for a lot against a rookie who ran the spread offense at West Virginia. Asked if he expects to win the starting job, Sanchez didn't hesitate.
"Absolutely," he said. "When it comes down to the competition, I bet on myself and go play and go win the job.
"So, we're with a new regime; John Idzik wants a quarterback competition; I'm still here, let's go compete. That's what I'm focused on. I can't worry about anything in the past except getting better from it."
Of course, Sanchez's life is not without a self-inflicted distraction. He was the focus of a video in which he bared his bottom while partying with two young women, who posted it on the Internet.
"The video is a little embarrassing," Sanchez said. "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." With a sly smile, he added, "And you know, I've got to work on my tan lines."
His laugh lines are intact, and maybe that's an indication, too, of the self-confidence Sanchez has heading to training camp, which can be a bewildering experience for many rookie quarterbacks. "I remember in my rookie year," Sanchez said. "It's tough to come in and command respect. You've got to be a little bit of an actor. You've got to win an Oscar in the huddle every time you walk in there, basically, asserting yourself as the leader.
"Now, it's becoming more and more natural. Using that experience can only help me as we move forward in training camp."
You know, "Jets East."