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Geno Smith calls Mark Sanchez a 'pretty good QB'

Jets quarterback Geno Smith throws a pass during

Jets quarterback Geno Smith throws a pass during the team's first day of rookie minicamp in Florham Park, N.J. (May 10, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Geno Smith will spend the coming days, weeks and months learning from, and competing with, two veteran quarterbacks who are desperate to prove they, too, can be starting quarterbacks in the NFL.

While some Jets fans – and even some people on One Jets Drive -- may be ready to finally break free of Mark Sanchez, Smith came to Sanchez’s defense during an ESPN radio interview Monday afternoon.

“He’s a guy that I’m going to be in competition with, but at the same time, I’m going to learn from,” the Jets’ second-round pick said of Sanchez on The Michael Kay Show. “He’s a professional, he’s done it for several years and he’s carried himself well, in my opinion. Everything that he’s done, ups and downs -- I think the overall perception of him may be kind of swayed depending on the games he’s played, but I think he’s a pretty good quarterback and I look forward to competing with him and being around him.”

Smith expertly toed the line between respecting one’s elders and declaring himself capable of resurrecting the franchise. The former West Virginia quarterback refused to say whether he expects, or wants, to be the starter in Week 1. But he clearly understands what it takes to earn the trust of those around him.

“When it comes down to the position of quarterback, no other statistic matters except wins and losses. And I understand that,” he said, when asked about losing six of his final eight games at West Virginia, including the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse.

“I’m not bitter about anything that happened last season because I know it’s all a part of God’s plan and I believe everything works out for a reason and I think everything that I’ve dealt with, with the ups and downs, I was able to stay even-keeled and I think that ultimately showed my character to my teammates and coaches. And that’s why they can stand up and defend me in times when people may think I’m some type of diva, or ultimately, something that I’m not.”

And while Smith is quick to study the tendencies of the veteran QBs around him, he is acutely aware of how highly-regarded he is by his new teammates and coaches.

Though Smith admitted he was “surprised” he ended up being the 39th overall selection instead of a first-round pick, he also believes he’s right where he should be.

“The Jets were the team that wanted to select me,” he said. “It only took one team to fall in love with me -- and that’s what happened. So I’m in a great position.”

Here’s more from Smith’s interview today:

(On learning the playbook)
“You have to know every single guy's position, every guy's role. Not only theirs, but you've got to know yours. You've got to know your depths and your drops. You've got to know your reads. There's just a number of things you must know. That comes with time, it takes patience. It's not going to be done in three days."

(On the biggest adjustment entering the NFL)
"It's not college anymore. It's a professional sport, and every single aspect of it is an adjustment for every single guy. The main thing, I think, is I've got to stay at it, stick with it, keep the right mentality throughout the whole process and work as hard as I can to improve on a daily basis."

(On why it’s not awkward between him, Sanchez and David Garrard)
“At the end of the day, we're all teammates, we all have to support one another. There's obviously competition between us, but from my standpoint, I'm a rookie, so my job is to learn from them -- let them guide me and lead me, and one day I'll be in that positioned be a leader. But as of right now, it's just about learning every single thing I can and remaining humble and remaining the same guy I was coming into this thing. But still going out there and competing in practice and trying to improve."

(On whether all five QBs are on equal footing with a new offense)
“I think that's up to the coaches. My job is just to control what he can control, which is studying the playbook, building a relationship with the guys, not just in the locker room, but everyone in the facility. And, just working. Just working. This is my job now. This is a full-time thing. And you can’t take days off.”

(On whether he believes he’ll start – and whether he wants to)
“Right now, I can’t look toward the future. I mean, once you start doing that, that’s when you get yourself in trouble. …When that day comes, then I’ll be ready for it. But as of right now, there’s a lot of work to be done.”

(On the main reasons he fired his agents)
“It was just a thing that, I think, was in the best interest of myself and my family. There were a number of reasons that I don’t care to share. But it was just a thing that I felt was a necessity at the time. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. It may have been blown out of proportion, but that’s the way it is.”

(On the origin of the “diva” label)
“I don’t know. You would know better than I would. I don’t pay attention to that type of stuff. There’s such thing as fact and then there’s fiction and I don’t pay attention to any fiction. I know who I am, I’m comfortable in my skin. I know what I do and the way I work, so I don’t listen to any of that outside media stuff. In fact, I try and tell my mother and my uncles and everyone around me to just block it out because I think it affects them more than it affects me.”

(On his decision to return for Day 2 of the draft)
“Honestly…I never knew there was a second day of it. I never knew the players came back for the second day. I just thought if you don’t get drafted you just moved on and were selected on the second day. But I think it kind of got misunderstood. Once I realized that, ‘Hey, you still do have an opportunity to walk across the stage,’ I was all for it. My dream was ultimately to watch across that stage and sake Mr. (Roger) Goodell’s hands and that’s what happened.”

(On whether he fired agents because he fell to the second round)
“I could tell you for sure that that was not the reason. Like I said, there was a number of reasons and where I was selected has nothing to do with the agents. They can’t get me drafted hire or lower -- it’s up to the teams to select. So that was clearly not the reason. Obviously, people may assume things, but I don’t play into that. …Firing my agents, is that the worst thing in the world? I don’t think so. But at the position of quarterback, you obviously get scrutinized and everything gets over-analyzed, but it is what it is. ”

(On his impressions of Rex Ryan)
“I’ve loved Rex from the time he was in Baltimore. I know a couple of guys who played on that Baltimore team and they all love Rex. He’s a guy who players love, he’s a defensive genius. And just being around the guy, you want to play for him. And you want to go out there and give it your all and do your best for him, I think that about all the coaches here, but Rex is the guy who leads that and I really love him and I look forward to playing for him.”

(On reports that he was texting, disinterested during pre-draft visits)
“If you really pay attention to it, everything that said was anonymous. So who’s really saying it? That could be someone walking down the street saying that. So I don’t pay attention to it. That wasn't the reason teams didn’t select me. I know better than to be texting in front of general managers and guys who are ultimately going to be my bosses. Like I said, it’s something you can’t pay attention to.”

(On whether negative publicity will be used as motivation)
“Yeah. Just playing in the NFL is enough motivation. I’ve always carried a chip on my shoulder. I don’t feed into negativity, I always look on the bright side of things. And I play with an edge because it’s hard enough to play this position, let alone in the NFL…

"There’s guy coming up the ranks trying to steal your spot every year. I want to play good and I want to play well – not only for myself, but for my teammates. And I want to win games and it takes a lot of hard work and preparation to do so. I have a chip on my shoulder not only in the games but through practice and in the weight room, and evne when I’m off the field. (That’s) my character – just making sure no one has anything bad to say about me that can ultimately affect who I am as a player and a person.”  

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