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Sanchez: Shoulder feels great, ready for Pats

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez talks to

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez talks to the media as his team prepares for their playoff game against the New England Patriots. (Jan. 12, 2011) Photo Credit: Newsday / Joe Epstein

Mark Sanchez was unexpectedly animated when the topic of conversation turned toward his sore right shoulder.

“It feels the best it’s felt in three, four weeks,” the Jets quarterback said, excitedly. “I was full practice today for the first time in a while and that was huge. So we know it’s getting better and that’s the most important thing. Week by week it’s getting better, so I’m ready to go.”

Now the second-year QB has no excuses heading into Sunday’s showdown with the New England Patriots.

The road to the Super Bowl runs through Foxborough – a stadium the Jets have had little success in. But as they prepare for their toughest challenge of the season, the maturation of Sanchez continues. And one of the biggest lessons he’s learned is this: he doesn’t have to be perfect.

Sanchez toed the line between dynamic and dreadful last season, winning two playoff games on the road in his rookie campaign after leading the NFL with 20 regular-season interceptions.

But things are different now. With the signing of running back LaDainian Tomlinson and Santonio Holmes, Sanchez has more sure-handed weapons to choose. And with this type of arsenal (which also includes Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller), the quarterback can relax a little bit, knowing he doesn’t have to shoulder the load himself.

He may want to be perfect, but Sanchez now understands he doesn’t need to be.

“We have so many playmakers that guys will bail you out,” he said. “…At the right time guys will make the right plays and when it’s my turn I need to make’em.”

In back-to-back weeks, the youngster will face Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, the personifications of quarterback perfection. But Sanchez said he no longer is concerned with how he stacks up to opposing quarterbacks.

At least, not anymore.

“Maybe my first year I thought about that a little more; about how the other quarterback’s doing and trying to match him and have better stats,” he said. “But if you play the way you’re supposed to play, if you focus on the defense the way you’re supposed to, get completions, make your plays when you get your opportunities, then, inevitably, things will go right. So there’s no reason to worry and track what Tom’s doing. It’s really not worth your time.”

“Just like he’s not worried about the other quarterback, he’s worried about the defense.”

Sanchez also said he’s not worried about the absence of right tackle Damien Woody, who was placed on injured reserve today due to a left Achilles heel injury. The quarterback believes he’s “safe” in the hands of backup Wayne Hunter.

“Wayne’s done such a great job of respecting Damien and that’s his right tackle position, but at the same time he’s gotten opportunities, he’s taken over,” said Sanchez. “He hasn’t missed a beat, so I was really proud of the way he played. He’s into it, he’s excited, he smiles, he’s having fun. He’s a tough competitor, so I’m fired up for him. I couldn’t be happier for him.

“But to see Woody out, it kills you. It’s a bittersweet feeling.”

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