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Rex Ryan says he may alter his tattoo with Mark Sanchez's jersey number

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, right, smiles as he

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

ORLANDO, Fla. - Unlike tattoos, quarterbacks are never permanent. So with the Jets releasing Mark Sanchez last week, the most intriguing question surrounding the break-up has nothing to do with football but with the ink drawing on the upper right arm of Rex Ryan.

You remember, the tattoo in which Ryan's wife is depicted wearing a Jets jersey with Sanchez's number 6 on it. At the AFC coaches' breakfast on Tuesday morning, Ryan rolled up his sleeve to show just a little bit of the design that he says will be staying with him . . . but perhaps with a modification.

"The tattoo is still there," Ryan said. "It was my tattoo, and it's still my tattoo . . . I may alter it, who knows? I may put 75 on it and honor Winston Hill. I think that's the idea. That's what I'm going to do."

That alteration may provide Ryan with some closure on his relationship with Sanchez.

"That was my first draft pick, me being a coach that was my first pick," Ryan said. "You have the vision that this guy is going to be with you for 10 years. I'm sure every coach has that. Very few make it that far. I think in an ideal world, that's what you would have liked."

Instead, it lasted just half that, the final three years a bit beleagueredly. Sanchez didn't even play last year after injuring his shoulder in a preseason game.

Ryan said Sanchez can still be a starter in the NFL.

"I absolutely do," he said. "I think the best judge of quarterbacks is probably their record . . . His win-loss record is not by fluke. The guy has talent. The big thing about Mark, when he learns to protect the football better, that's probably the thing that's missing more than anything."

Ryan also said that being released from the Jets would help Sanchez. Reports on Monday had Sanchez going to Philadelphia.

"I think it's good for him that he moves on and he'll have a chance to start again," he said. "He had success here. I'm sure he's got some great memories here and some great moments, and that's more than a lot of people can say. He took a team to two [AFC] championship games as a young quarterback. Not everybody can do that. He had some big wins here, a lot of come-from-behind wins, things like that that he can be really proud of. But he's also got a chance to start again somewhere else."

Even though he's been replaced on the roster with the signing of Michael Vick -- and apparently is soon to be replaced on Ryan's arm -- the coach and the quarterback will continue to share a bond.

Said Ryan: "Mark knows how I feel about him."

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