FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Quarterback Mark Sanchez was just one of the many New York Jets stunned to hear that 35-year-old David Garrard decided to retire Wednesday due to a knee that wasn't up to the rigors of a 16-game season anymore.
However, if Sanchez figured that he was in a good spot to capitalize now that Garrard -- who many had handicapped as the leader in the upcoming quarterback competition -- was out of the way, he wasn't letting on. Sanchez did make it clear he intends to win the starting job.
"This is something I've dreamed about all my life and I don't plan on letting it go," he said.
The Jets had six quarterbacks on the roster when they picked Geno Smith in the second round of the NFL draft. After waiving Tim Tebow, the team carried Sanchez, Smith, Garrard, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. Tebow's departure was expected, but many were surprised Garrard called it quits during the offseason training program.
"[It was] a little bit abrupt," Sanchez said. "But he worked hard and he had a great attitude. He was one of those guys I felt I'd be able to bounce ideas off of. He had that experience. It's tough to see a guy go like that."
Garrard wasn't guaranteed a spot on the opening-day roster, something that might have factored into his decision. Earlier Thursday, in an interview with SiriusXM NFL Radio, he said his decision to retire "might have been a little bit different" if he was guaranteed a roster spot.
But Garrard said in the interview he could still return to the Jets in a different capacity this summer.
"The Jets offered me the chance to come back if I want to take a shot at that coaching thing with an internship in training camp," Garrard said. "I told them I'd talk with my wife about it, so I could still work with those guys. It's definitely something I'm considering."
If Garrard was the preseason favorite, every other Jets quarterback just moved up a spot on the depth chart. Unofficially, that probably puts Sanchez back on top despite the fact he was benched toward the end of last season, when Sanchez had 18 interceptions and eight lost fumbles.
On Wednesday, Sanchez took some heat from Steve Smith of the Panthers, who said "I wouldn't let Mark Sanchez throw me a paper bag sandwich," in an interview with WFNZ-AM in Charlotte.
Sanchez took the high road Thursday, saying: "I wish him and his team a healthy and successful season."
Several of his teammates said Sanchez could still be the Jets' starter, but want to see the confidence he exuded in the first two years of his career return in 2013. After Sanchez was drafted in 2009, the Jets reached the AFC Championship Game twice. Toward the end of last season, McElroy was handed the ball twice as the season wound down.
Asked if he has addressed confidence issues in the offseason, Sanchez said it wasn't a problem.
"I don't think it took a hit, I mean I know it didn't take a hit," Sanchez said. "I feel good."
The prevailing wisdom is that it's too soon to say who will start. Smith was impressive in the rookie minicamp, which was filled with many players who will never see a regular-season roster and where the plays run may only bear a passing resemblance to what's on paper. Smith and Sanchez will have to work out side-by-side before a favorite emerges.
"I'll be ready for the reps I get," Sanchez said.
Smith is in Los Angeles for the NFL Players Association rookie card photo shoot, one of 40 players attending. The rookie has already seen how dramatically a storyline can change, having gone from a "diva" to the heir apparent after showing off his arm at rookie minicamp. He will definitely press Sanchez, even if he doesn't surpass him right away.
Sanchez knows he has to address the interception issues, something he's discussed with his new offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg. He said he thinks of them like a bad childhood habit, and said at some point you just have to stop biting your nails. That time, he said, is now.
"I'm ready," Sanchez said. "I'm excited."