FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The news of David Garrard's impending retirement won't change Mark Sanchez's approach as he competes for the Jets' starting quarterback job.
"My mind-set's the same," said Sanchez, who sported another soccer-style headband Thursday. "Just stay focused, master this offense, improve on my fundamentals and be as accurate as possible. Take care of the football and lead this team."
Garrard, 35, who signed a one-year, $1-million free-agent deal this offseason to compete with Sanchez, was forced to call it quits because of chronic knee swelling.
"I just kept thinking, 'How am I going to compete for the starting job if every four days I've got to stop and have an ice bag on my knee while the guys are practicing?' " Garrard said on SiriusXM NFL Radio Thursday.
"It's tough to see a guy go like that and you just wish him the best health-wise first," Sanchez said. "And then, he has a career to celebrate. He played a long time in this league and did a heck of a job. It was great to be around him in the short time I had with him and we wish him nothing but the best."
Garrard's departure leaves four quarterbacks on the roster, although Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith are expected to be the front-runners. But although Sanchez joked that he's suited for Marty Mornhinweg's new offense because "I'm from the West Coast," he said he expects all four quarterbacks (Greg McElroy and Matt Simms are the other two) to compete for the starting job.
Sanchez was complimentary of Smith, saying the rookie "looks good," is "sharp" and "works hard" during practice. "He doesn't say too much," Sanchez said. "Just plays his butt off and competes. And that's great."
But while Mornhinweg said he's "hoping someone will rise to the top quicker rather than later," Sanchez is unaware of any timetable.
"I'm focused on playing the very best I can," he said, noting that the competition between him and Smith is "a fierce deal.'' He added, "As soon as they tell me, 'You're the guy, you're not the guy,' then we'll know. They've given me no indication on when that should be."
But to get the job, Sanchez knows he will have to cut down on his league-leading 52 turnovers during the past two seasons. "It's a mentality," he said, adding that he's working on ball-security drills with new quarterbacks coach David Lee.
"There's a point where you bite your nails -- and then you just stop," he said. "Whatever it takes. You just stop. It becomes a habit. It becomes just a way of thinking and a way of making decisions on the field . . . I've never thrown the ball away as many times as I have in these first couple weeks. That's something you practice. Those things become habit. You continue to rep them and just don't let it happen. So that's the plan."