NEW YORK (AP) The winner of the New York Jets' quarterback competition is ... still yet to be determined.
And, if you listen to Rex Ryan, one might not ever be declared.
Mark Sanchez has an injured right shoulder that could keep him out for at least the season opener. So, in a scenario that appears to be increasingly likely, raw rookie Geno Smith could get the start against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sept. 8. After offseason workouts, minicamp, training camp and preseason games, the Jets are still where they were months ago: with no clear-cut starting quarterback.
"I guess you can assume it's ongoing," Ryan said Friday, "if we haven't announced anything yet."
Ryan could be playing a bit coy, but he insists the team hasn't decided. He has repeatedly said the Jets aren't working with a set deadline, and even acknowledged they could enter the season without saying whether Sanchez or Smith actually won the job.
"I guess it's a possibility," he said. "When we feel good about it, we'll make that decision. Certainly we haven't put a timetable on it as far as naming a starting quarterback. When we feel good about that decision as an organization, we'll make it."
Truth is, the Jets don't need to announce anything to anyone just yet, not with the season more than a week away. But if they truly don't have a gut feeling on it within the organization, then this quarterback competition went seriously awry.
"There's a lot of factors that go into things," Ryan said during a conference call. "Health could be a factor, and there could be other things as well. That's why I would consider the competition as ongoing. Until there's an announcement, then the competition is ongoing. If we announce it Wednesday, then fine. If not, then I guess you can assume that the competition is still ongoing."
That vague approach might also buy Ryan the ability to change things up without committing to either player. If Smith starts and plays well, Ryan can continue on with the rookie. If not, and Sanchez gets healthy, the veteran can get back in the lineup - without Ryan having to "bench" Smith.
"Everybody will have their say," Ryan said. "Obviously there will be some voices that will carry a little more weight than others."
Surely those voices will include general manager John Idzik and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
Neither Smith nor Sanchez played in the preseason finale win over Philadelphia on Thursday night, although the master plan might have been altered a bit a few days earlier when Sanchez was injured against the Giants last Saturday night. Smith got the start in that game and played three-plus quarters, showing he wasn't quite ready for prime time with three interceptions and taking a safety.
That dismal performance had many assuming that Sanchez had wrapped up the starting job with a solid - but far from spectacular - preseason. Until Ryan had Sanchez enter the game in the fourth quarter, a decision that could have long-range effects on this season.
"I think that's an assumption," Ryan said of anyone thinking Sanchez had won the job.
Sanchez took a crunching hit to his right shoulder late in the game, suffering an injury that left the quarterback - as Ryan repeated Friday - "day to day." Some published reports say Sanchez has yet to resume throwing the football, an ominous sign for someone who would be expected to play next Sunday.
"We knew he wasn't going to play (Thursday night)," Ryan said. "So, there's time through the weekend."
Ryan repeatedly said the situation could gain greater clarity next Wednesday, when teams are required to issue their first injury reports of the week.
If Sanchez hadn't been injured, there's a chance Smith - and maybe even Sanchez, too - might have played against the Eagles. Instead, the Jets couldn't take the risk of Smith getting injured.
As of Friday afternoon, the other quarterbacks on the roster were Greg McElroy, who's dealing with a knee injury; Matt Simms, who had a terrific performance against Philadelphia and might have won the No. 3 job; and newly signed Graham Harrell, who took one snap - the kneel-down to seal the victory. None of the three are being considered as starting quarterbacks.
So, if Sanchez can't go, it might be Smith, who already has a head start on things.
"I've already watched a ton of film on the Buccaneers so far," Smith said after the game. "So, I'm just going to work extremely hard and prepare my mind and body for this upcoming game."
Smith is hardly a finished product at this point, and Ryan acknowledged that the rookie has struggled at times. A sprained ankle in the preseason opener certainly didn't help.
"He started out like gangbusters and he had the ankle injury, so that set him back," Ryan said. "Got the game in against the Giants, and obviously, it was a very up-and-down performance. He had a good week of practice.
"We'll see where he is from there."
NOTES: Ryan said the winners of the competitions at safety opposite Dawan Landry - between Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett - and left guard - between Vladimir Ducasse and rookie Brian Winters - are still undetermined. With Allen and Jarrett, Ryan said both could see lots of playing time and it could be "opponent specific." ... CB Dee Milliner has been hobbled by a sore calf, and ESPN New York reported he was seen leaving the stadium in a walking boot. Ryan remained optimistic that he would be ready for Week 1, but said the team would know more by next Wednesday.
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