The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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September 10, 2013

Jets’ Smith looks to build on debut

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Geno Smith was already focused on his next opponent a few hours after his first NFL victory.

No time for the rookie quarterback to celebrate.

Not with the New York Jets getting ready to play the Patriots at New England on Thursday night.

And, if the Tampa Bay Buccaneers presented a big challenge, Smith knows it will only get tougher this week.

“We’re going to do our best to prepare ourselves,” Smith said, “and we will be ready come Thursday night.”

He’s already gone through a ton of film on the Patriots, and he started studying at home a few hours after helping lead the Buccaneers to an 18-17 victory Sunday.

During a conference call with New England-area reporters, Smith broke down the entire Patriots defense and named just about every starter from Vince Wilfork — “His name speaks for itself” — to Rob Ninkovich — “One of the smartest players I have seen on tape.”

Preparation is key for Smith, who is getting a crash course in being a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Rex Ryan announced the expected Monday: Smith will get his second start Thursday.

Smith still hasn’t been officially declared the Jets’ starter for the season, and he insists he doesn’t need that title.

As far as he’s concerned, he’ll just keep preparing as if he will be under center for every game the Jets play this season.

“I’m not worried about that,” Smith said. “My job is day to day.”

It could, however, be a lot longer. Especially if Mark Sanchez’s ailing right shoulder keeps him on the sideline for several weeks.

Sanchez was ruled out for the Patriots game by Ryan, and the quarterback confirmed that he will be seeking a second medical opinion on his shoulder.

Ryan said Sanchez hasn’t had a setback with the injury, but with a short week, it makes sense for him to get another look at the shoulder.

“I think our team doctor Ken Montgomery is doing a great job and diagnosing things and making sure we’re on track to a speedy recovery,” Sanchez said. “We just want to make sure we’re all on the same page and both sides, really — the team and myself, my agent and I — feel like it’s the best idea to get another opinion.”

Sanchez declined to confirm published reports that he will meet with Dr. James Andrews at some point this week.

“We’re going to get a few different opinions, it sounds like,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez has been throwing left-handed during practice, but insists his right shoulder is feeling better each day.

The Jets clearly are uncertain when he might be back, so they re-signed veteran Brady Quinn on Monday, two days after cutting him to prevent his contract from being fully guaranteed.

Sanchez reiterated that he is “day to day” and refused to speculate whether his injury could be season-ending. He was even able to joke when asked how much he could move his shoulder around.

“I’m able to raise the roof,” Sanchez said with a big smile.

So, it appears the Jets will move forward with Smith as their quarterback for the near future.

He made his share of mistakes in his debut, including a fumble that led to a score and an interception, but was mostly solid.

He went 24 of 38 for 256 yards with a touchdown to Kellen Winslow Jr., and led New York with 47 yards rushing.

“I was fairly happy with my performance,” Smith said. “Obviously, those two turnovers were on me. I’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the ball and not putting us in tough situations. That’s something I’ll learn from and get better from.”

During training camp, Smith was running about equal to Sanchez in a tightly contested quarterback competition until he sprained his right ankle in the preseason opener. It’s an injury that Smith said still isn’t completely healed, but isn’t hindering him.

Smith was able to not only make plays with his strong arm, but scrambled out of trouble multiple times Sunday. He set up the winning field goal when he took off for the sideline and drew a 15-yard penalty on Lavonte David for a late hit.

“Hopefully, it’s something to grow from,” Ryan said. “This is what we saw early in training camp. It’s not a surprise he would have some success. He’s feeling healthy now.”

There were plenty of questions about how prepared Smith would be after taking just 69 snaps in the preseason, and his only start being a turnover-filled performance against the Giants.

n Could he be equally effective working under center and out of the shotgun?

n Would his footwork be good enough?

n Would his emotions and nerves get the best of him?

Yes. Yes. And, no. Not at all.

“When the game time comes around, you can’t be out there second-guessing yourself,” he said. “That’s something I’ll never do.”

Smith has said all the right things from the moment he was drafted, whether it was about his relationship with Sanchez to how he would deal with critics of his skills and abilities.

His confidence has also remained a constant, and that’s no different in a short week to prepare for Bill Belichick’s Patriots as he tries to lift the Jets to an improbable 2-0 start.

“I embrace the challenge,” Smith said. “I know Coach Belichick is one of the masterminds in this league. (I have) a ton of respect for him and his team. I expect everything, every single look.

“I will appreciate it, too, because it’ll help me out in the future.”

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