FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The decision rests on Mark Sanchez’s sore right shoulder.
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan was unsure Wednesday whether his quarterback, dealing with an ailing throwing arm, would play in the team’s regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
“I’m leaning to think that maybe he’ll play some,” Ryan said. “But we’ll see.”
Sanchez has played well the last two games even with his shoulder bothering him, and Ryan wants him to stay in his late-season rhythm heading into the playoffs. But the Jets (10-5) have already wrapped up a postseason berth and don’t want to risk further injury.
“If we don’t think he is 100 percent or right at it, then no, I’d have a tough time playing him,” Ryan said. “I don’t think that would be appropriate.”
Sanchez is preparing to start, but was limited at practice — as he was last week. He was injured in the Jets’ win at Pittsburgh on Dec. 19, but played well through it — as he did against Chicago last Sunday.
“I’m glad I’m not a head coach,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know. I always want to play. I like practicing; I like playing. That’s all I think about. I love doing it and I just want to be smart with my shoulder. … It’s going to be up to Rex. It’s a tough decision and I don’t want to be in his shoes.”
There’s a strong possibility Sanchez could start, play a few quarters and then give way to 40-year-old Mark Brunell and Kellen Clemens. Ryan said there was “no way” Sanchez would play an entire game Sunday — if he plays at all.
“Until he says anything, I’m preparing to play and I’m ready to go,” Sanchez said. “And if I do indeed get pulled, then I’ll be Brunell and Kellen’s biggest cheerleader.”
Sanchez said his shoulder felt improved from this time last week.
“I feel better, definitely better,” he said. “It was about the same amount of throws, so definitely less than a normal Wednesday, but more footwork, more drills. Every play I wasn’t in, I’m giving Brunell the call, I’m going through the footwork on the side when the defense is going and making it game-like and making it like I’m taking every rep.”
Sanchez has thrown only one touchdown pass in his last four games, but has looked much better in the last two. His completion percentage was around 65 against Pittsburgh and Chicago, while his quarterback rating was above 80 in each game.
“He kind of does have that hot hand and, more than anything, I just want him to make sure that he’s ready to go,” Ryan said.
The Jets are currently the sixth seed in the AFC and have a shot at moving up to the fifth spot. They will likely play at either Kansas City or Indianapolis, marking the second time in Sanchez’s two seasons he’s heading to the playoffs.
“It hasn’t really hit me,” Sanchez said. “Last year, we didn’t get quite as far as we wanted. This year, we’re trying to take it one more game and one more win. It’ll be a good push, but it’s something you’ll look back on, hopefully when I’m Brunell’s age, and think, ‘That’s great, two years in a row, your first two years, that’s awesome.’ Then as soon as next year starts, I’m thinking playoffs again and let’s take it as far as we can. That’s just kind of our mentality, and it’s good.”
Notes: DE Shaun Ellis (lower back), S James Ihedigbo (right knee/ankle) and RG Damien Woody (right knee) did not practice, while S Eric Smith (concussion), CBs Darrelle Revis (right hamstring) and Antonio Cromartie (groin), and DLs Trevor Pryce (hip) and Sione Pouha (back) were limited. Ryan said only Ihedigbo had been ruled out for this week.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.