Sure, the news of David Garrard’s impending retirement caught Mark Sanchez off-guard. But the fifth-year quarterback said nothing has changed as far as how he is approaching the upcoming QB competition.
“My mindset's the same,” said Sanchez, who sported a clear headband on Thursday. “Just stay focused, master this offense, improve on my fundamentals and be as accurate as possible. Take care of the football and lead this team.”
Garrard, who signed a one-year, $1-million free-agent deal this offseason to compete with Sanchez, was forced to call it quits due to chronic swelling in his knee.
“I just kept thinking, ‘How am I going to compete for the starting job if every four days I’ve got to stop and have an ice bag on my knee while the guys are practicing?’” Garrard said on SiriusXMNFL Radio Thursday.
His departure leaves four quarterbacks on the roster, although Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith are expected to be the front-runners. But while Sanchez joked that he’s well-suited for Marty Mornhinweg’s new offense – “I’m from the West Coast,” he said with a smile – Sanchez said all four QBs (him, Smith, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms) will compete for the starting job.
Sanchez also was complimentary of Smith, saying the rookie “looks good,” is “sharp” and “works hard” during practice. “He doesn't say too much,” added Sanchez. “Just plays his butt off and competes. And that's great.”
And if he expects to compete with the young QB, Sanchez knows he’ll have to protect the football. Over the past two seasons, he’s led the league with 52 turnovers.
“It’s a mentality,” he said. “There’s a point where you bite your nails – and then you just stop. Whatever it takes. You just stop. It’s becomes a habit. It becomes just a way of thinking and a way of making decisions on the field.”
Sanchez said he’s been doing drills with new QBs coach David Lee to help with his decision-making. “I’ve never thrown the ball away as many times as I have in these first couple weeks,” he said. “That’s something you practice. Those things become habit. You continue to rep them and just don’t let it happen. So that’s the plan.”
During a conference call with season ticket holders Wednesday, Mornhinweg said he’s “hoping someone will rise to the top quicker rather than later,” Sanchez said he is unaware of any timetable involving the QB competition.
“I'm focused on playing the very best I can,” he said, noting that the competition between him and Smith is “a fierce deal.” “As soon as they tell me, ‘You're the guy, you're not the guy,’ then we'll know. They've given me no indication on when that should be.”
Sanchez took the high road when asked about Steve Smith’s “paper-bag sandwich” diss.
“I have no idea, you'd have to ask him that,” said Sanchez. “I wish him and his team a healthy and successful season.”
As for his relationship with new general manager John Idzik, Sanchez said Idzik doesn’t “owe” him anything, adding that there’s an open-door policy with the GM.
“If it’s something that he needs to let me know, then he’ll let me know,” Sanchez said. “I have no problem going up to his office. …He wants to talk to guys, get to know guys. He’s out there at every practice, which is nice. He’s a visible guy. He’s not just somebody upstairs hiding behind some office door. He’s approachable and personable guy. But at the same time, this is a whole new deal. He’s not obligated to tell anybody anything.”