Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, smiles as he talks with...

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, smiles as he talks with head coach Rex Ryan on the sidelines after a touchdown by running back Bilal Powell during the fourth quarter of a game against the Rams. (Nov. 18, 2012) Credit: AP

Mark Sanchez is entitled to think what he wants, Rex Ryan said. But the Jets clearly don't agree.

Ryan said Friday he wasn't surprised that Sanchez thinks he won the starting quarterback job before being injured Aug. 24. But "that's his opinion," Ryan said.

Sanchez declined to speak to reporters after the Jets' 13-10 loss at New England on Thursday night, but he had plenty to say before the game to NFL Network. During a phone interview with Rich Eisen, Sanchez said he had beaten out rookie Geno Smith.

"I won the competition," Sanchez said, according to Eisen. "There was no doubt about that. It was a done deal."

The Jets, of course, felt differently -- demonstrated by their shortsighted decision to insert Sanchez in the fourth quarter of the preseason game against the Giants. He later was forced to leave the game with a right shoulder injury after taking a hit from lineman Marvin Austin.

Sanchez appeared to have a better offseason than Smith, who struggled a bit as his workload increased. But the Jets have consistently maintained -- even with Sanchez being sidelined for weeks -- that the competition remains open.

"You want your players to believe that, and if you don't believe in yourself, nobody else will," Ryan said, referring to Sanchez's comments. "I certainly would expect that -- from any competitor -- that they're winning the job and things."

But he quickly added: "I never said he won the competition. I didn't say that."

Ryan did say, however, that Sanchez's rehab is "going well" and the Jets' training staff is "pleased" with his progress.

ESPN reported late Wednesday night that Sanchez likely will have season-ending surgery after he received confirmation from noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews that he has a torn labrum in his shoulder. But sources confirmed to Newsday that Sanchez plans to continue rehabbing -- rather than have surgery -- in hopes of returning to action this season and that he's seen "multiple doctors" who are "all in agreement" that he is ahead of schedule.

Asked if it's realistic to think Sanchez can play this season, Ryan said: "I do. If we didn't think it'd be realistic that Mark would get on the field, then he would be put on IR [injured reserve], and that's not the case."

Notes & quotes: Ryan confirmed that defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has an ankle injury but did not provide a medical update. The coach also said he will wait until Wednesday to give a status update on wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (concussion) . . . Though Ryan was pleased with his defense, which limited Tom Brady to 49 passing yards in the second half and forced the Patriots to have more punts (11) than first downs (nine), he refused to say whether rookie cornerback Dee Milliner -- whom he benched during the loss -- will lose his starting job . . . Ryan also said of their self-inflicted wounds (a fumble by Stephen Hill and three fourth-quarter interceptions by Smith): "You turn it over four times against New England, I just don't think you have a chance." . . . Bucs safety Dashon Goldson was fined $30,000 for his helmet-to-helmet hit on tight end Jeff Cumberland last Sunday . . . Bucs linebacker Lavonte David was fined $7,875 for unnecessary roughness for shoving Smith to the ground last week, setting up Nick Folk's winning field goal . . . Jets safety Dawan Landry was fined $21,000 for unnecessary roughness when he struck Bucs receiver Mike Williams in the head and neck area.

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