"If we didn't think it was realistic that Mark would get back on the field, we'd put him on injured reserve, and that's not the case," Rex Ryan said Friday, commenting on Sanchez's highly publicized shoulder injury. "He's doing a great job in rehab. Our doctors and trainers are pleased."
Sanchez's injury, suffered during the Jets' third preseason game, has triggered intense speculation about his immediate and long-term future with the team. He has a labral tear, ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen reported Wednesday, that ultimately may require surgery.
Sanchez has been advised by doctors not to have surgery right now, a source said. He will continue with rehabilitation, hoping to progress to a point where he could be available to play. He's still not throwing, so he could be at least a few weeks away.
If he does return, the Jets could have a quarterback controversy, based on Sanchez telling the NFL Network on Thursday that he believes he beat out rookie Geno Smith in the preseason.
"That's his opinion," Ryan said. "It's not about a company line. If that's what he said, that's his opinion. Again, there is that ongoing competition. … I never said he won the competition."
No, he didn't, but Sanchez echoed the sentiment of many, claiming Thursday, "What I'm really disappointed about is that I got hurt, because I won the competition. There's no doubt. It was a done deal."
It was a surprising comment from Sanchez, considering he had avoided any controversial remarks in the aftermath of his injury. A few hours after the interview, Smith went out and threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in the 13-10 loss to the New England Patriots.
The rookie had as many completions as interceptions in the final quarter, and the Jets (1-1) failed to overcome a three-point deficit despite four possessions in the final 15 minutes. Smith completed only 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards, earning a 15 on ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating scale.
"Through it, he was still poised," said Ryan, who was more annoyed by the Jets' six dropped passes than his young quarterback's mistakes. "It wasn't like he was rattled. He was confident. He threw some jump balls up there at the end, trying to force some issues, but he was trying to make plays."
Ryan questioned Smith's first interception, on third-and-5 from the Patriots' 27. Flushed to his left, Smith threw across his body to Santonio Holmes. Ryan said the rookie, with his team already in field goal range, should have pulled the ball down and run with it.
Smith was hard on himself after the game, saying, "There were costly mistakes that were completely on me. I didn't get it done. I take full responsibility."
The rookie quarterback still hasn't been anointed the permanent starter, as the Jets have extended the quarterback competition that dominated headlines in training camp. Sanchez was the presumptive starter, but he injured his right shoulder after Ryan made the controversial decision to play him behind the second-team line during the fourth quarter of the preseason game.
Sanchez was, and still is, chafed by the way it was handled, a source said. Publicly, the Jets called it a bruised shoulder joint, saying he was day to day. That was 20 days ago.
After seeking opinions from at least two doctors, Sanchez will put off surgery, a source said. He can have surgery at the end of the season and still be ready for training camp in 2014, although it's highly unlikely he'll be back with the Jets.