The Norman Transcript

November 18, 2012

Jets deal with different kind of controversy

By R.B. Fallstrom
The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — This week’s Tim Tebow flap had a familiar ring to the quarterback playing ahead of him.

Just like Tebow, Mark Sanchez recalls getting criticized by unnamed teammates last season. The common denominator: In both instances, the New York Jets were foundering.

Sanchez said increased focus on his failures was not a distraction in the team’s late-season fade last season, and the alleged criticism of Tebow’s skills is not going to hurt them Sunday at St. Louis, either. The team’s problems, he contends, are the mistakes and missed opportunities on the field common to struggling teams.

Teams like the Rams (3-5-1), who are 0-3-1 in their last four games.

“I mean, people make it sound like we just went out to practice today and just threw our stuff down and stopped playing,” Sanchez said in a conference call with St. Louis media. “That wasn’t the case at all, and I’m not making light of it or trying to discount Tim’s feelings in this thing. If anybody knows, it’d be me, I’ve been through that after last year.

“Somebody made an anonymous comment and said I’m lazy in practice and I don’t work hard and nobody’s challenging me.”

Of course, Sanchez wasn’t happy when singled out as the cause of the team’s failures, and he knows Tebow must be upset with supposed ringing votes of no-confidence from several people in the Jets organization — many of whom couldn’t envision a scenario in which a backup viewed as little more than a wildcat gimmick would be a preferable choice to run the offense. It’s a backhanded compliment for Sanchez, who has completed an NFL-low 52 percent of his passes.

Dealing with the rumor mill, coach Rex Ryan reasons, is part of the cost of running an open shop. While many teams ratchet up media restrictions, instructing players on how to remain non-controversial and having media relations assistants hover near interviews, Ryan places trust in his players. He adds that the Jets deal with a lot more media than many other franchises, “maybe like 10 times more.”

“We’re a team that doesn’t think we have anything to hide,” Ryan said. “Now, is it always perfect? No, it absolutely isn’t. But I’d much rather be that way and let people show who they are, how they feel.”

Ryan thinks fans can better identify with players if they’re not giving the “standard answer.”

“Is there some times you wish that, ‘Oh, man, maybe I shouldn’t give that freedom?’ Well, yes. Sure, of course,” Ryan said. “But, I’d much rather (it) be team freedom of speech and everything else than one where you’ve got to tighten everything way down.”

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