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It's official: Sanchez to start for Jets on Sunday

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - There was no fanfare, no flashing camera lights and no stunned silence.

After days of indecision and shared snaps between quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Kellen Clemens, coach Rex Ryan put the official stamp on what the media and the Jets' players already knew: that Sanchez will start Sunday against Atlanta - knee braces and all - in an attempt to prolong the team's slim playoff hopes for another week.

"Mark will start at quarterback, to no great surprise to anybody," Ryan said matter-of-factly Friday.

"He's got both knee braces, so it's going to be a Joe Namath throwback game for Mark. He slid right in front of me in practice to make sure I knew he was ready to go. He feels confident. He threw the ball well today. He's ready to go."

Said Sanchez: "I am excited to be back out with the team and back on the field."

Ryan originally told reporters he would make his decision Wednesday after watching the rookie in his first practice since he sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Dec. 3 against Buffalo. But the coach delayed his decision until Friday, preferring to err on the side of caution and the advice of his medical staff.

Ryan's concerns were alleviated by the time his $50-million quarterback stepped onto the practice field Friday morning.

"We went into practice thinking he would be fine," Ryan said of Sanchez, who took all of the reps with the first team during Friday's indoor practice. " . . . I asked him again, 'Do you feel strong?' and he said, 'Yeah, absolutely.' The doctors and our medical staff feel really good about it."

Sanchez said there is no swelling in his right knee and that it feels good. He also said he isn't worried about managing a must-win game in the snow.

This weekend's forecast calls for gusty winds and six to 12 inches of snow across the region, although the snowfall is expected to end before the game begins.

"I am excited to play," said Sanchez, who grew up in Southern California, played for USC and presumably hasn't seen much snow. "I know there are going to be many more [games in the snow], so I plan to get used to it."

Just in case, the Jets plan to insert a wool lining - similar to that used in UGG boots - into Sanchez's helmet to ensure that the frigid temperature will be a little more manageable.

This isn't a custom order just for Sanchez, though. The linings are a part of the team's equipment inventory and are available to all players on game day.

Several players, including all of the Jets' quarterbacks and kickers, long-snapper James Dearth, nose tackle Sione Pouha and linebackers Bryan Thomas and Kenwin Cummings, are expected to have the lining inserted into their helmets for Sunday's game.

Lining or not, Ryan doesn't think the quarterback will have any trouble Sunday.

"I don't think the conditions will be a factor at all for him," Ryan said. "He's got big hands, which I think you have to have in cold-weather games. In really bad-weather games, if it's raining, you need the big hands to zip the ball. He can throw it, so he'll be just fine."

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