Tony Richardson of the New York Jets carries the ball...

Tony Richardson of the New York Jets carries the ball during a game against the Tennessee Titans. (Nov. 23, 2008) Credit: Getty Images

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Jets fullback Tony Richardson defended quarterback Mark Sanchez Thursday and said he never saw signs of a potential falling-out among players in his three years on the team.

Shortly after stepping off the dais at the conclusion of the NFL Players Association news conference, the former elder statesman of the Jets' locker room expressed sadness and disappointment about the current state of the team.

Though he believes Sanchez has the ability to be a leader, he said "true" leaders need to guide and direct the young quarterback rather than call him out anonymously.

"It's easy to call someone out, especially in such a visible position as quarterback," said Richardson, 40, who retired after the 2010 season but keeps in touch with several Jets, including good friend Dustin Keller. " . . . Unless you're 33-for-33 in every game, there's going to be some bad throws, there's going to be poorly managed situations."

Richardson, who played 16 NFL seasons, said that during his time with the organization, the Jets were a "very close" football team that spent a lot of time together off the field.

"We had a lot of issues," he said of last season's team. "Especially the year before, we had a lot of issues. But we dealt with them."

As for the rift between Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, Richardson said with a smile: "I think both of those guys are under contract for a while, so hopefully they get this thing resolved."

Though he's enjoying his time away from the NFL, he said he's mulling several job opportunities -- but not a comeback as a player. But when Richardson, who has a lunch/dinner date with Rex Ryan planned for next week, was pressed about joining the Jets' staff, he said: "I'm not really interested in jumping into anything right now."

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