Emboldened by the lucrative three-year contract extension he signed with the New York Jets, quarterback Mark Sanchez found his voice Friday night and addressed his critics directly for the first time.
"If you're an unnamed source," Sanchez said, via the New York Daily News, "you don't really speak for the team."
Sanchez endured a litany of critical comments after the Jets ended a disappointing 2011 season out of the playoffs. One unnamed player said Sanchez was "lazy and content" and running back LaDainian Tomlinson described the Jets' signal-caller as pampered.
"It doesn't really bother me at all," Sanchez said of the negative comments. "If anything, that fuels me."
Sanchez also had to deal with rampant speculation that the Jets would make a run for Peyton Manning, recently released by the Indianapolis Colts. But Sanchez insisted the Jets approached him about an extension a couple of weeks after the season ended.
The $40.5-million extension then ended any potential controversy, and Sanchez said he wasn't surprised a deal was reached even after an up-and-down 2011 season during which he threw 18 interceptions and lost eight fumbles.
"They wouldn't let one season change their view on me," Sanchez said.
He added: "The best part about it is they chose to stick with me. I'm going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years here. That's exciting. It gives the team just a reminder that I'm the leader of this team."