Jets QB Sanchez itching to get back on the practice field, Ryan says

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan hopes quarterback Mark Sanchez, who's recovering from offseason knee surgery, will be able to participate in minicamp in June.

Sanchez had a procedure on his left knee Feb. 17 to repair the patella ligament. He said two weeks ago that he hoped to be running on ground sometime around mid-May and didn't rule out participating in minicamp June 14-16.

"It's really going to be disappointing to him if he can't come back and do some of those minicamps or OTAs or whatever," Ryan said Saturday between rookie minicamp practices. "I'd love to see him do that last minicamp, if at all possible."

Whether he practices or not in minicamp, Sanchez has said he will be ready "without a doubt" in time for when training camp begins Aug. 2 in Cortland, N.Y.

"We're certainly not going to rush him all the way back, but he's doing everything," Ryan said. "He's itching to go. He can't stand it. But he's throwing the ball some and he looks great. He's doing everything that we ask him to do, and he's going to be just fine."

Ryan believes not having Sanchez on the field for most of the offseason workouts gives the Jets' other quarterbacks -- Kellen Clemens, Erik Ainge and Kevin O'Connell -- a chance to shine.

"It just gives opportunity to the other guys," Ryan said. "You know, step up, and maybe we can figure that out, how to rank those other guys because there's going to be good competition there."

Ryan also acknowledged that the team is still interested in veteran backup Mark Brunell, but the Jets can't sign any unrestricted free agents until July 22 unless one of their own signs elsewhere before then.

Brunell, who recently met with the Jets, could serve mostly as a mentor to Sanchez and the young quarterbacks. Brunell spent last season -- his 17th in the NFL -- as Drew Brees' backup on the Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints.

"He's really a class act," Ryan said of Brunell. "I've gone against him a bunch. He's smart and he wants to get into coaching when he's done playing, and I think that's a good thing. If he came here, it's not like he's coming here to be our starting quarterback."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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