CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets' quarterback "competition" (Rex Ryan's word) is officially underway. It's frontrunner Geno Smith versus Michael Vick, who supports Smith but considers himself an elite player.
"I still feel like I'm a premier quarterback in this league," Vick said Wednesday after reporting to training camp.
This will be a fascinating dynamic because Vick is a more accomplished player than Smith, but Smith is the likely opening-day starter. Ryan, taking the politically correct approach, said he has two starting-caliber quarterbacks. But, at some point over the next few weeks, he'll have to pick one. Ryan wouldn't give a timetable, saying a decision will be made at the "appropriate" time.
Vick, entering his 12th season, acknowledged this situation feels different because he's entering camp as the presumed backup. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said recently that Smith will get 70- to 75-percent of the first-team reps, a clear indication that it's Smith's job to lose.
"The thing that popped up when I heard that is, it's going to be very important for me to get mental reps," Vick said. "For any athlete out there in the country, when you're not getting the reps with the 1s, mental reps with the 2s are just as important. I can't lose sight of that."
Vick, who has all but conceded the job to Smith, said the key to handling the No. 2 job is finding "an inner peace. I have to find things that keep me stimulated and motivated on the football field."
On Day 1, Smith didn't make any bold statements. He said recently that he expects "big things" out of himself in 2014, but he stayed humble as he spoke to a pack of reporters outside the team's dorm. He knows the drill when it comes to positional battles.
"I mean the names are different, but honestly it doesn’t" feel different than last year, said Smith, who won the job by default last summer when Mark Sanchez was injured.
Actually, it is different. A lot different. The coaches won't be as patient with Smith when he makes mistakes, especially with Vick at the ready.
"He's head and shoulders above where he was last year, I don't think there's any doubt about that," Ryan said of Smith.
Ryan called this the "strongest quarterback situation" he's had in six years as the head coach. It's hard to dispute that.