Owner on Sanchez: 'Protect yourself'

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- These are tough times for Mark Sanchez.

He has a bum throwing shoulder and lost his starting job Wednesday to rookie Geno Smith, fueling speculation about his future with the New York Jets.

And as if that wasn't hard enough, Sanchez was hit with a one-two punch. At about the same time he was learning that Smith would start in Week 1, his boss -- owner Woody Johnson -- intimated the former starter was partially responsible for the injury.

"I wished he hadn't gotten hurt, but you've got to protect yourself, too," Johnson said at a Super Bowl XLVIII promotion in Manhattan, trying to defend coach Rex Ryan for playing Sanchez behind a backup offensive line in the fourth quarter of the team's third preseason game.

Johnson, speaking to reporters later in the day at the Jets' facility, attempted to "clarify" his earlier comments. He said he never meant to suggest the injury was Sanchez's fault.

Scrambling outside the pocket, Sanchez was blasted by then-New York Giants defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who came free and had a clean shot. Sanchez has a bruised joint in his throwing shoulder and has been ruled out for Sunday's season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Sanchez, who missed only one game due to injury in his first four seasons, is expected to miss a few weeks, sources said.

The former first-round pick could conceivably sit on the bench for the remainder of the season, but he's not going anywhere, according to Johnson.

"Mark will be on the team; I don't think there's any question about that," said Johnson, who is paying Sanchez a guaranteed $8.25 million to be a backup.

There also was speculation about placing Sanchez on short-term injured reserve, but general manager John Idzik said that isn't a consideration.

"We're not looking at that," he said. "We're looking at Mark continuing to rehab. We said it's day to day. It's very unpredictable. ... Hopefully, we'll get him back here soon."

Sanchez reportedly feared being placed on IR, but that isn't true, according to a person familiar with the situation.

"Mark is progressing, and he's not overly concerned about being placed on IR," the person said.

On Wednesday, Sanchez stepped out of character, avoiding reporters. He entered the locker room after practice, saw a group of reporters at his locker and walked out with a public-relations official. In recent days, Sanchez had been uncomfortable discussing his injury.

Sanchez still has a chance to regain his starting job, according to Idzik, but it's clear the organization is moving away from him.

Johnson, who gave Sanchez a three-year contract extension 18 months ago, always referred to him as a franchise quarterback. Not Wednesday.

"He's a very, very good quarterback," Johnson said. "Franchise quarterback, you can debate the term. There's a competition for the job, and he's still in the competition."

Ryan's controversial decision to insert Sanchez into the fourth quarter of the third preseason game ended up costing the owner $715,000 -- the amount it took to sign veteran Brady Quinn as a backup.

Johnson expressed disappointment that Sanchez got hurt but said he has "no regrets" for playing him. Ryan took the heat for making the call, but he was following a plan established before the game, according to Idzik, who was involved in the plan.

"We regret the fact that he was injured," Idzik said. "We feel terribly about that. Mark feels worse than we do."

No doubt.