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Geno Smith supports Jets' decision to start Mark Sanchez

Geno Smith looks on during training camp in

Geno Smith looks on during training camp in Cortland. (Aug. 7, 2013) Credit: Hans Pennink

CORTLAND, N.Y. - Geno Smith shrugged off the news just as quickly as he had moved on from his pair of interceptions during a 7-on-7 practice drill this week.

The rookie said Tuesday's announcement that Mark Sanchez will start tomorrow night's preseason opener at Detroit didn't catch him off guard. Nor did it spark a sense of urgency within him.

"Oh, I've got a fire,'' Smith told Newsday Wednesday afternoon. "It's been there all along. I can see why people [would wonder about that]. But once you get to know me, you'll see that nothing's going to ever change about me. I'm always going to be the same -- on and off the field. I'm just that type of player.''

Smith's only reaction to the "big'' announcement was that he had no reaction. Instead, he offered nothing but support for Sanchez, whom he described as a respected leader.

"I fully back Mark, I fully back the coaches' decisions,'' Smith said. "I'm all about helping this team grow, helping us win.''

For Sanchez, being given the start was expected -- and well deserved.

"It felt like the natural thing and something I've been used to,'' he said. " . . . I just don't think about not playing. Ever.''

Despite his confidence, Sanchez still can't gauge whether he's leading the quarterback competition.

''You have to ask the coaches, but I feel like I'm putting together a good camp,'' he said, echoing offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's sentiments.

''I think I earned the right to start this first game and we'll see how it goes from there. But I've got to keep playing well to stay on the field, and that's the plan.''

Both quarterbacks will play with the first-team offense, but neither knows for how long. There is one thing that's certain, however. Said Smith: "The competition is still open.''

Regardless of how the reps are split up Friday, there is a great deal riding on each series. Sanchez, with 52 turnovers the past two seasons, must prove he can take care of the ball. Smith must show he can withstand the punishment NFL quarterbacks take. So neither is taking the game lightly.

"It's important for us to be sharp,'' Sanchez said. "There's live hitting. No more red jerseys, head on a swivel, make sure you're doing the right thing, get rid of the ball, especially against this [Lions] defense. It's pretty serious.''

Smith said his only job is to "take care of my reps that come on Friday.'' He said he has "no clue'' if he'll start the second preseason game against the Jaguars on Aug. 17, or any of the others.

"I think they're going to evaluate this thing fairly,'' the rookie said. "I trust the coaches, I trust Marty, I trust [quarterbacks coach David] Lee and everyone else who is going to be making that decision. I'm just going to continue to practice, keep my head down and stay focused. Whatever comes about from this, I think will be the right and just decision.''

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