Entering his fifth year with the New York Jets, quarterback Mark Sanchez finds himself in uncharted territory. His starting job is in serious question and Gang Green's once-strong supporting cast has withered away around him the past two seasons.
With Jets' veterans reporting to camp on Thursday, expectations for Rex Ryan's normally brash and boisterous bunch appear to be at an all-time low. In the face of doubt and cynicism raining down from the New York media and even parts of the Jets' fan base, Sanchez insists that the locker room is closer than ever.
"It honestly doesn’t affect what we do here," declared Sanchez. "Like I said it’s our job as that core group of leaders to make sure guys are on track. To put your blinders on, go to work, have fun up here in camp with the guys on the team."
Sanchez's fate in the Big Apple could be tied to his head ball coach's especially if they both go down with a sinking ship in 2013. While the coach-quarterback duo enjoyed great success during their first two seasons together, but the past two have been an entirely different story.
"Well, look, all we’re worried about is this season anyway," noted Sanchez. "I know Rex can get the job done. We’ve been on a couple playoff runs together. I’ve seen him really grow as a head coach and a person. (He) just does his very best. He expects the best out of us and he promises his best and that’s all you can ask for out of a head coach."
With rookie Geno Smith breathing down Sanchez's neck, things promise to heat up this summer in Cortland, N.Y. After Smith turned down Sanchez's invite to his Jets West Camp, both players insist their are no hard feelings, but just the nature of the competitive situation.
"Things are business as usual," said Sanchez of his relationship with Smith. "We’re competing our butts off and going through practice and everything is great."
Sanchez and company were dealt a tough blow this week, reports began to surface that top receiving target would start training camp on the PUP list and there's still uncertainty about his availability for the start of the regular season.
"You know that is something I will leave to the doctors, but I know he is doing everything he possibly can," Sanchez stated. "That was one of the reasons he didn’t make it out to Jets West. He was doing so well with his rehab they wanted to keep him on schedule. If anyone can get him back for the season it is our doctors and our trainers and if not then we will roll from there."
The Jets locker room gained a boost in morale when the front office announced on Wednesday that wideout Braylon Edwards will rejoin the team for another season. No player was more please with the move than Sanchez.
"It’s great to have Braylon," Sanchez exclaimed. "He’s always smiling, always having a good time, a great personality for any team and selfishly I’m happy he’s back."
As New York's former "Sanchize" prepares for what could be his last quarterback stand in training camp, he's thrilled to have a familiar target to throw to this summer.
"I know the coaches will make the right decision for the team," said Sanchez. "I am just going to do my very best. I know Braylon and I have a great rapport so that never hurts, but I am confident that the coaches will pick the best player and I am confident with my ability to be the best player."
Rick Laughland covers the New York Jets for Greenandwhitereport.com
You can follow him on Twitter @rlaughland