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Sanchez doing his best to deal with Tebow's presence

Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez together before a

Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez together before a game against the Carolina Panthers. (Sept. 5, 2012) Credit: David Pokress

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez may seem like an eternal optimist. But he is no fool.

The Jets quarterback is well aware of the position he's been put in. From the moment Tim Tebow arrived, Sanchez not only has had to field questions about his job security, but he's also been forced to share the spotlight and practice snaps with a backup who is looking to expand his role.

"I've got to play the cards I'm dealt here," Sanchez said after Wednesday's practice.

It was a rather telling, and brutally honest, response. Although much attention is being paid to Tebow's debut in the highly anticipated unveiling of the Wildcat Sunday against the Bills, the Jets' fate lies in Sanchez's hands.

Sanchez gradually came to terms with Tebow's arrival, but in the hours after the out-of-the-blue trade, he was in a state of shock, according to Santonio Holmes. The receiver said Sanchez was "rattled" and that his response was a mixture of confusion and uncertainty.

" 'Wow. How did this happen?' " Holmes recalled Sanchez saying by phone that day in March. "Those were words that came out of his mouth." Asked whether Sanchez told him that directly, Holmes said, "Yes. It came off that way."

The Jets continually laud Sanchez as the face of their franchise who will lead them back to the playoffs. But the front office also has touted Tebow as the best show in town. Owner Woody Johnson last week told CNBC, "I don't think you can ever have too much Tebow."

When told Wednesday of Johnson's comment, Sanchez just smiled. "Selling seats, man. Selling seats," he joked, though there was truth in jest.

"Obviously, Tim helps. He really does. He can run it, he can throw it, he can do it all. Hopefully, we'll give teams their fair share of Tebow and see what they can do."

Sanchez said he didn't take Johnson's comment as a slight, adding, "He's excited about [Tebow]."

So is Ryan. The Jets coach confirmed during his weekly ESPN Radio spot Monday that the backup quarterback may get as many as 20 plays (about a third of a game) if defenses have trouble stopping him.

When told of that comment, Sanchez's tone turned serious.

"I have to keep working hard, keep leading this team," he said. "Do everything I can. It's our job to work together -- Tim and I. So that's what we'll do for the betterment of the team."

Holmes said he also was shocked by the Tebow trade. "I didn't know whether we were getting rid of Mark or whether we were bringing in a new quarterback or what," he said. "But when I talked to Rex Ryan, he kind of put me at ease."

Ryan Wednesday praised Sanchez as a changed man and an improved player. When he was a rookie, critics said the Jets would have to win in spite of him. Ryan said he knew that perception eventually would change.

"I said there's going to be a day when he's looked at as a strength and not a weakness," Ryan said. "And I think that day is right now. I don't think there's one area he hasn't improved in."

In the past six months, everyone in the organization has expressed faith in Sanchez.

"I'm going to ride with him to the end," Holmes said. "[Ryan] told me Tebow's going to help us keep the drives going, score touchdowns and win ballgames.

"And those were the exact words that I gave to Mark . . . He's our starting quarterback and Tebow's here to win as many games as he can."

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