The Jets might have to try to clinch a playoff spot this weekend without Mark Sanchez.
Coach Rex Ryan said yesterday that Sanchez’s sore shoulder is worse than he first thought, though he still expects the second-year quarterback to start Sunday at Chicago. If not, 40-year-old Mark Brunell would be under center.
“This one could be more of a game-time type decision than I thought it would be,’’ Ryan said.
Sanchez was limited in practice for the second straight day and “never had a ton of zip’’ on his passes, according to Ryan. But offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer saw it differently, offering a more optimistic evaluation.
“As he got going a little bit, he looked pretty good,’’ Schottenheimer said. “Early in the day, Mark was trying to get loose. He had an 18-yard curl route that was awfully sharp.’’
Ryan would not confirm published reports that an MRI on Monday revealed a slight cartilage tear in Sanchez’s shoulder, hurt during New York’s second drive in last Sunday’s 22-17 win at Pittsburgh. Sanchez finished the game, and played well through the injury.
Earlier this week, Ryan said he was 99 percent sure Sanchez would play. He downgraded that number to 80 percent yesterday.
Sanchez was not available to the media because he talks on Wednesdays, but has said he’s “playing, that’s all there is to it.’’
Sanchez threw more passes during yesterday’s practice than he did Wednesday, an encouraging sign. Both Ryan and Schottenheimer believe it likely will come down to Sanchez’s threshold for pain, but the team won’t put him in if he can’t perform.
“He’s still got to improve before we’ll be comfortable with him out there as our starting quarterback,’’ Ryan said. “Do we think he will? Yes, we do think he’ll be better.’’
The Jets ruled out safety Eric Smith and right tackle Damien Woody for the second straight game. Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (turf toe) was limited in practice, but Ryan expects him to play.
Owner defends Ryan The finger. The show. The reporter. The knee. The wall. And now, the feet.
Through it all, Jets owner Woody Johnson has stood by his coach and team during this interesting year, and his latest defense came a day after Ryan declined comment about a foot-fetish report posted by the sports website Deadspin.
“I have a lot of respect for Rex and his family,’’ Johnson said. “My respect has not diminished one iota.
“I’m going to respect Rex and how he wanted to characterize it. It’s a personal matter, and that’s the way it is.’’
Johnson said he has spoken with Ryan and offered his support.
“He’s still the coach of the New York Jets,’’ the owner said.
Dispute grows in D.C. The simmering feud between Donovan McNabb and Mike Shanahan and his son continued as the quarterback’s agent, Fletcher Smith, took aim at the Redskins coach and Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, for the way they have handled the benching.
Smith said in a statement that the Shanahans have made comments that go beyond disrespectful and “unprecedented for a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback such as Donovan.’’
Mike Shanahan responded with a statement that called the benching, “not personal, but strictly professional.’’
Smiths switch again The 49ers are going back to Troy Smith as their starting quarterback while leaving open the possibility they might switch to Alex Smith at any time. Coach Mike Singletary said Troy Smith will start Sunday’s pivotal NFC West game against the Rams after Alex Smith started San Francisco’s last two games . . . Brett Favre missed his second straight day of practice, and Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said his quarterback is still showing concussion symptoms. Frazier, however, declined to rule out Favre for Sunday night’s game at Philadelphia. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (sore thigh) did some running in practice for the first time this week and said, “If I can play, I’ll definitely be out there on Sunday.’’
Addai expected back Colts running back Joseph Addai expects to return Sunday at Oakland after missing eight games with a nerve injury in his left shoulder. “I felt good. I didn’t set myself back,’’ Addai said one day after fully participating in practice. Colts linebacker Clint Session is also likely to play after missing seven games with a broken arm and a dislocated elbow . . . Browns rookie quarterback Colt McCoy was back at practice after missing one day with an illness. Running back Peyton Hillis also returned to action after resting his left knee . . . Vikings cornerback Antoine Winfield was fined $7,500 by the NFL for a head-high hit on Bears quarterback Jay Cutler Monday night.