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Jets QB Sanchez cleared to start against Falcons

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez will start for the New York Jets against the Atlanta Falcons after missing one game with a sprained posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Coach Rex Ryan said the rookie quarterback was medically cleared by team doctors after practicing three straight days. Sanchez took all of the snaps with the first-team offense Friday after taking 75 percent of them Thursday.

"We went into practice thinking he would be fine, so he was going to get 100 percent of the reps," Ryan said. "After talking with the doctors, they felt great. ... Mark feels strong. I asked him again, 'Do you feel strong?' and he said, 'Yeah, absolutely."'

Sanchez missed the Jets' 26-3 victory last Sunday at Tampa Bay after injuring the knee against Buffalo on Dec. 3, and was replaced by Kellen Clemens. He returned to practice Wednesday and experienced no setbacks during the week.

"It feels good," Sanchez said of the knee. "There is no swelling."

Sanchez will wear custom-fitted braces on both knees; he had already been wearing one on the left from a previous injury.

"It's going to be a Joe Namath throwback game for Mark," Ryan said. "He slid right in front of me in practice to make sure I knew he was ready to go. He feels confident. He threw the ball really well today. He's ready to go."

Ryan said the Jets also are preparing Sanchez for his first game in wintry weather. It's expected to be snowy with near-freezing temperatures at the Meadowlands on Sunday.

"We put some of the UGG boot stuff in his helmet, so he's going to be warmer," Ryan said, referring to the wool-lined footwear. "I'm not kidding. Look at his helmet. He's got some of that in there. We try to make sure our guys are comfortable and healthy and protected."

The Jets said several players will be doing the same Sunday, such as linebackers Bryan Thomas and Kenwin Cummings, defensive tackle Sione Pouha, long snapper James Dearth, kicker Jay Feely, punter Steve Weatherford and the other quarterbacks. Other players can request the stuffing on game day, as well.

"The equipment staff is doing everything they can to make me comfortable," Sanchez said. "It's really working and I appreciate their help."

Ryan isn't concerned about how Sanchez, from Southern California, will fare in the cold and potentially messy conditions.

"He's got big hands, which I think you have to have in cold-weather games," Ryan said. "In really bad-weather games, if it's raining, you need the big hands to zip the ball. He can throw it, so he'll be just fine."

Notes: C Nick Mangold missed his second straight day of practice with an illness and is listed as questionable, but Ryan said he's going to play Sunday. ... OL Robert Turner (left knee) is out, while CB Dwight Lowery (high right ankle sprain) is probable after missing the last three games.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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