FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez did not practice for the New York Jets on Monday while recovering from a sprained right knee, but coach Rex Ryan is optimistic about the rookie quarterback's chances of playing Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Sanchez sprained the posterior cruciate ligament in the knee while diving for a first down in New York's 19-13 win over Buffalo on Thursday night.
"He's so much better," Ryan said. "We thought we were going to get good news from the MRI, we did. Just the way he's approaching his treatment and rehab and everything else, you can tell he is definitely willing. That's for sure."
Ryan said Sanchez spent the majority of the weekend at the team's facility rehabilitating the injury.
"Treatment, if there's 18 hours a day, that's what it seems like," Ryan said. "He's been here the whole time. His spirits are good. I know he expects to play. We're optimistic he'll play."
Ryan was uncertain whether Sanchez would participate in the team's next practice Wednesday. Sanchez's red no-contact No. 6 jersey was on the field Monday -- but it was cornerback Donald Strickland, recovering from a concussion, wearing it. Backup Kellen Clemens worked with the first-team offense and would start if Sanchez can't go.
"He's got that time," Ryan said of Clemens. "He can be with the 1's today. We'll progress it through the week. I think that's only a smart thing to do."
Sanchez will initially wear a brace to stabilize the knee, and could play with it Sunday against the Buccaneers if medically cleared. He already wears a brace on his left knee from a previous injury.
Ryan wasn't sure if he has ever seen a quarterback play with two knee braces.
"Did Joe Namath?" he said, laughing. "I'm not really sure. I think [Dan] Marino might have."
The Jets (6-6) are in the middle of the AFC playoff mix after their win over the Bills, and hope their starting quarterback won't miss any time.
"If it's in the opinion of the medical staff that Mark can't protect himself the way he needs to, then obviously that decision will be easy to where he doesn't play," Ryan said. "Right now, we're feeling very good about where he is now and I think the doctors are, too. Does it take a turn and go south? Maybe it could, but right now we feel very good about how he's progressing."