Sanchez: 'I have to be on the field'
The second-year signal caller may have won over New York by driving his team deep into the playoffs as a rookie and putting together a 10-4 record this season, but he struggled badly in back-to-back losses to the Patriots and Dolphins before rebounding to beat the Steelers last week in Pittsburgh.
Fighting through a sore throwing shoulder that required an MRI on Monday, Sanchez is doing his best to downplay the injury and said it won't keep him from suiting up Sunday against the Bears at Soldier Field.
"I'm in there," Sanchez said. "I'm playing. That's all there is to it. I have to be on the field. That's what I'm here for, and that's what I'm going to do."
Nobody questions that the 2009 first-round pick is the QB of the present and the future for the Jets, but coach Rex Ryan has gone so far as to take some snaps away from Sanchez in practice in an effort to rest him and motivate him at the same time.
"He knows I disagreed with coming out," said Sanchez. "He knows we have an understanding that I don't always agree with him. It's personal to me, and I think he knows that. ... I'm possessive about this job, so we had a little talk about it. But it's good. I think part of it was a psychological thing, just to kind of test me a little bit."
A Bears defense that thrives on takeaways must notice that Sanchez has done a much better job taking care of the football in Year 2, committing only 13 turnovers in 14 games – last season, he had 23 turnovers in 15 games.
Ryan: 'We're planning on not kicking to him'
Most importantly for fans of the Bears, the Monsters of the Midway wrapped up the NFC North and will be back in the playoffs for the first time since the Super Bowl campaign of 2006, and as of right now they are on pace to be the No. 2 seed in the conference and would then earn a first-round bye.
From a historical perspective, two-time Pro Bowler Devin Hester set the all-time NFL record when he brought back a punt from Minnesota's Chris Kluwe 64 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter, as it was the 14th time he'd scored off a punt or kickoff in his five-year career, breaking the tie he had previously with 14-year veteran Brian Mitchell.
"I think it's pretty safe to say we're planning on not kicking to him," said outspoken Jets coach Rex Ryan when talking to the Chicago media Wedneday via conference call at Halas Hall, as his team will face Hester and the Bears on Sunday at Soldier Field. "I think you can write that down, as everybody else I'm sure doesn't want to kick to him. I don't think you can deal with him. As a returner, it's ridiculous. He's got to go down as the best punt returner in the history of the game."
The Vikings hadn't planned on kicking to Hester either, and Kluwe didn't the entire first half, launching each of his punts directly out of bounds, but Hester finally got his hands on one in the second half and immeidately did what he's done more than any player to ever put on a uniform."I have no idea," Ryan responded when asked why Hester keeps getting opportunities to drive enemy coaches crazy. "I hope the ball when we kick doesn't go to him."
There have been a total of 10 punts returned for touchdowns in the NFL this season, and Hester has three of them.
John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
Conference Call: Sanchez, Ryan
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