Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
MORRISTOWN, N.J. — Even though he probably will be playing elsewhere next season, injured quarterback Mark Sanchez insisted Tuesday he wants to remain with the New York Jets and expects to be their starter in 2014.
Sanchez, breaking a two-month media silence, spoke publicly for the first time since season-ending shoulder surgery. He predicted he will have a “bionic” arm when he’s healthy, which probably won’t be until the spring.
The embattled former starter clearly stated his desire to play out his contract, which runs through 2016.
“There’s no doubt about that,” he said, speaking to reporters at a church soup kitchen, where he volunteered to serve the homeless. “It’s been a dream come true to play here and I don’t want to go anywhere else, that’s for sure. I know I have [three] years left, and I don’t ever want that to end. I love being a Jet and I plan on being here.”
It’s wishful thinking. With a $13.1 salary-cap charge in 2014, Sanchez almost certainly will be released or traded in March, when a $2 million roster bonus is due. The Jets are rebuilding at quarterback, and they can unload Sanchez with a minimal cap hit.
Sanchez said he hasn’t discussed his future with team management, but he’s obviously aware of the speculation that the Jets don’t want him back. Publicly, he refused to acknowledge the possibility.
“I hope [I’m back],” he said. “That’s all I’m thinking about, coming back next year, leading this team and playing well.
“I know I’ve heard a lot of stuff on the outside about me not being here and stuff like that. I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case in the building. Hopefully not. Hopefully, I’m a Jet. That’s where I am, that’s where I want to be.”
As much as he talked about returning next season, Sanchez may have slipped, revealing his true expectations. When asked to comment on the team’s offensive struggles, he almost spoke in the past tense.
“I don’t want to be critical of those guys,” he said. “I’ve been in that situation, and I’ve seen guys that have played with us, and move on, be critical of us. It’s like, ‘Come on, you were just here last year. Why would you do that?’ That’s not really my thing. I root for those guys.”
That was an obvious reference to LaDainian Tomlinson, who ripped the Jets — and Sanchez — upon retiring after the 2011 season.
Sanchez hasn’t played since injuring his throwing shoulder in the fourth quarter of the third preseason game – an unconventional coaching decision with ongoing ramifications. He underwent surgery eight weeks ago to repair a torn labrum. There may have been other damage as well, but he declined to get into specifics. He said doctors told him the usual timetable for a player with his injury is four to six months of rehab.
“The way things are coming along, it sounds like I’ll be bionic,” he said. “I don’t want to say like [the movie] ‘Rookie of the Year,’ but hopefully something like that, where I’ll come back better.”
Currently, Sanchez is rehabbing at the team’s facility. He’s using the down time to break down tape of his past performances, team practices and games around the league. He said he intends to study Sunday night’s Tom Brady–Peyton Manning classic.
“This could be a blessing in disguise,” he said of the time away. “A lot of people have told me that. It’s hard to see while you’re going through it, but it does give you a different perspective. … I think it will help me in the future. It could be a jump start.”
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate