My take on the Mark Sanchez/shoulder situation: He will start Sunday against the Chicago Bears.
Rex Ryan backtracked somewhat from Wednesday's comments, when he proclaimed Sanchez a virtual lock to start, but offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer painted a brighter picture than Ryan. Check out some of Schottenheimer's quotes:
On whether he expects Sanchez to play: "I think so. I really do."
On Ryan's claim that Sanchez didn't show much zip: "Early in practice, I think he was kind of just getting warmed up. I think that's probably what Rex was talking about, but I think as he got going a little bit, he looked pretty good. I think a lot of it is just a precaution. They're being smart."
Why did Ryan dial back his optimism? Just a hunch here, but maybe it was a diversionary tactic. With no Sanchez news, the headlines in Friday's papers would've been owner Woody Johnson addressing FootGate and the team's season of off-the-field problems. The Jets want that to go away. Throw a little doubt on Sanchez's status and -- voila! -- the off-the-field stuff becomes secondary.
Just my grassy-knoll theory.
Other notes from the Florham Park Zoo:
INJURY REPORT: RT Damien Woody (knee) and S Eric Smith (concussion) won't play. That means Wayne Hunter and Dwight Lowery, respectively, will start for the second straight week ... Woody said he's hoping to return next week for the final regular season game, but that it's still up in the air. He was given a two- to six-week timetable by doctors. He had arthroscopic surgery eight days ago.
LOVIN DEVIN: Special teams coach Mike Westhoff, reiterating what Ryan indicated Wednesday, said they're not planning to punt the ball directly to Devin Hester. Westhoff said they will "try to squeeze the field as much as we can." For the record, Westhoff believes Hester is tops.
"He's at the very top in everything," Westhoff said of Hester, who set the NFL last week for most return touchdowns (14) in history. "I used to think Deion Sanders was the best punt returner I ever saw, and Mel Gray was the best kickoff returner, but this guy is the best of the best."
HAPPY RETURN: Brad Smith's 97-yard touchdown on the opening kickoff last Sunday in Pittsburgh was so well-executed that the Steelers barely touched him. Said Westhoff, "It might have been as good a blocked return as I've ever seen."
NO CENTURY GAME: Steelers RB Rashad Mendenhall lost his 100-yard rushing game. The league made a scoring change, ruling that his run with 11:08 left in the second quarter was, in fact, a 9-yard run, not 10 yards. Earlier in the week, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said the officials made a bad spot, inadvertantly awarding them a first down. As a result, Mendenhall finished with 99 yards. It means the Jets' streak of not having allowed a 100-yard rusher this season still is intact.