Mark Sanchez isn’t quite sure how long his NFL debut will last, and it really doesn’t matter. The New York Jets rookie quarterback is excited that moment is finally here.
“I just can’t wait to get into the hotel, get into that pregame routine and run out on the field at the Meadowlands,” Sanchez said Wednesday at Hofstra University. “It’s going to be great.”
The Jets’ preseason opener against the St. Louis Rams on Friday night will be the next measuring stick for a closely contested quarterback competition between Sanchez and Kellen Clemens.
“I know I’ll be running out of the tunnel, just smiling and excited to see the fans, just like today, so you just kind of feed off their energy and hopefully I have a good, efficient day,” the fifth overall draft pick said. “It’ll only be a couple of series, so I’ll probably build myself up for nothing, but it’s all right.”
Neither quarterback is expected to take too many snaps against the Rams, especially with three starting offensive linemen out for the game. Center Nick Mangold (right knee), left guard Alan Faneca (broken finger) and right tackle Damien Woody (head) won’t play because of injuries.
“I don’t think we’ll go as long as we would’ve or maybe had liked to,” coach Rex Ryan said. “It did affect our plans a little bit.”
Clemens will start the game, but both he and Sanchez probably won’t be in for much more than two series apiece.
“We’d love to take every snap that there is, but ultimately it’s Rex’s call,” Clemens said. “He’s going to do what’s best and we’ll go out there with the intention of going through to the end. When he says, ‘All right, you guys are done,’ we’ll take a seat and support the younger guys.”
The practice at Hofstra marked a return to the place where the Jets trained the last 40 years before moving to Florham Park, N.J., after last summer. The team is holding training camp this summer in Cortland, N.Y.
“This has been outstanding for us to be able to come back here and be where the fan base of the New York Jets really is, a lot of it,” Ryan said.
The team got in its last practice before the preseason opener in front of 6,500 fans.
“It was awesome,” Clemens said. “It’s nice to see that they still support us as much as they do now that we’ve moved off of Long Island.”
The practice lasted about 1½ hours, and Clemens went 2 of 3 in 11-on-11 drills, while Sanchez was 1 of 3 — and both were “sacked” twice in the session.
“It was a good day, nothing too incredible,” Clemens said. “We ran the offense pretty good. It was a shorter practice as far as reps, but it was a good segue going into Friday night.”
Sanchez had taken the edge in the competition with a few solid days of camp in a row, but Clemens has looked good of late and narrowed the gap.
“For us, it just comes down to running the offense efficiently, and part of that is maintaining possession of the football, making completions and making good checks in the run game,” Clemens said.
Added Sanchez: “It was sharp, efficient and a short practice. It was the way Coach Ryan wanted it. I got a few completions and the offense looked good and the defense looked good. It was exactly what we needed.”
The preseason game will also mark the head coaching debut for Ryan, who’ll go up against another rookie head coach in the Rams’ Steve Spagnuolo.
“I love seeing defensive coaches get opportunities,” Ryan said with a big grin. He’s certainly a deserving guy and I look forward to it. But, quite honestly, I wouldn’t care who it was on the other sideline. I’m going to look forward to the experience myself.”
NOTES: Ryan shot down an Internet report that the Jets were looking into dealing RB Thomas Jones to an NFC West team, saying it’s “100 percent not true.” Jones sat out voluntary workouts in the offseason while seeking a restructured contract, leading to speculation he could be dealt. “Shoot, I’m not going to trade that,” Ryan said. “You know what I’m all about and this guy is huge in our plans. I’m not going to trade the running back who led the AFC in rushing. I would for three first-round picks and something like that, maybe. We ain’t dealing him. No way.” … Ryan said the Jets signed K Parker Douglass because Jay Feely has a sore groin, but added that it’s not serious.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.