Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez at Skylight Soho. (March 15, 2012)

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez at Skylight Soho. (March 15, 2012) Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

When Mark Sanchez laid eyes on Santonio Holmes in Orlando, Fla., a few weeks ago for the first time since their well-publicized rift, the two were amazed by the raging inferno they were engulfed in.

"I was like, 'Man, this thing really took on a life of its own,' " Sanchez said Thursday in Manhattan, where he received an award at the Randall's Island Sports Foundation gala. "He was like, 'You're telling me. I've got people, family calling me like, 'What's up with your boy? You guys don't like each other anymore?' No, it's not like that.

"So it got blown out more than it needed to. But I think after underachieving, as competitive as we are, we were frustrated. But I think learning from that is most important, coming back stronger next year is most important, and that's our main objective."

Save for briefly touching on the topic during a conference call announcing his three-year, $40.5-million extension last week, Sanchez hadn't really publicly addressed the feud he had with his star receiver at the the tail end of the season. The spat between Sanchez and Holmes led to strong comments by LaDainian Tomlinson and rookie quarterback Greg McElroy, both of whom indicated the locker room tension was easily detectable.

But Sanchez insists there are no hard feelings with Holmes now, and said the two had been in constant communication prior to hooking up in the Sunshine State last month.

"When I got the chance to see him for a couple of days," Sanchez said, "he was the same old guy like our first year together, a guy who won a bunch of games for us in the closing seconds of games. So I know it can work between us. It's not a matter of if. It's a matter of when -- and that's now. And I'm thrilled about that."

Even so, they had to hash some things out, such as getting to the root of why Holmes was accused of quitting on the team in the season finale in Miami and was benched in the closing minutes.

"We talked about it," Sanchez said. "We both had strong feelings about it and we got a chance to really sit down and address a lot of issues. So, it was good."

Sanchez, who played with a pinched nerve in his right shoulder/neck area the last few weeks of the season, said he didn't pick up a ball for nearly two months after the season ended because he was healing from the bumps and bruises. But he said he's good to go now, feeling "great."

After a season in which Sanchez thought he underachieved, he's eager to start the offseason conditioning program next month. He said he doesn't believe a players' meeting will be necessary to clear the air with teammates after all the turmoil.

"It honestly was a good experience for our team and guys will be ready to go," Sanchez said. "I don't think there's one message that needs to be said to anybody. It's understood. Nobody likes this feeling. Last year's gone and done with, and all we can do is get better. So if we don't do that, then it's a real shame."

Notes & quotes: Free-agent QB Brady Quinn, who spent last season with the Broncos, is expected to visit the Jets today, according to a source.

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