FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez spent a few days after his miserable performance wondering what was next.
The New York Jets quarterback had been benched, his coach tired of his mistakes, and there was no guarantee Rex Ryan would give him his job back anytime soon.
"I knew at some point before I died, I'd start at quarterback again," Sanchez said Wednesday. "I'm glad it's this week."
Ryan gathered his three quarterbacks Wednesday morning and told them he made up his mind: He's sticking with Sanchez.
For this week, at least.
Ryan weighed his options after pulling Sanchez for Greg McElroy last Sunday against Arizona, talking to many people within the organization before settling on his quarterback.
"I have to get this decision right," Ryan said, "and I believe I have."
So it will be Sanchez and not McElroy or Tim Tebow on Sunday when the Jets take on the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
"I'm pleased with coach's decision," Sanchez said. "Now it's my job to go make him right."
Sanchez was removed late in the third quarter against Arizona, and McElroy came in and led the Jets to the only touchdown of the game on his first NFL drive, helping New York to a 7-6 victory. Sanchez was 10 of 21 for 97 and three interceptions, while McElroy was 5 of 7 for 29 yards and the score, and appeared to spark the team.
Including, the Jets hope, Sanchez.
"When I looked at everything, the biggest thing I kept coming back to is, who gives us the best opportunity to win?" Ryan said. "When I kept coming back to that, I believe the correct answer was Mark Sanchez."
Sanchez will likely be on a short leash against Jacksonville — with Tebow the No. 2 if healthy, and McElroy also ready to go — but Ryan acknowledged it might not be a quick hook if he struggles. Ryan also referenced the team's color-coded system which determined how much risk Sanchez can take with each pass, saying the quarterback is now back in the "red light" area — meaning he must be extremely cautious.
"If he throws one interception, it doesn't mean he's going to get benched, necessarily," Ryan said.
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger returned to practice on Wednesday and appears on track to return this weekend against San Diego.
Roethlisberger hasn't played since spraining his right shoulder and dislocating a rib in a 16-13 overtime victory over Kansas City on Nov. 12. He was limited in practice but coach Mike Tomlin was encouraged by Roethlisberger's performance.
Tomlin called it a "positive" day for his franchise quarterback but isn't quite ready to say Roethlisberger is ready to start against the reeling Chargers (4-8). Roethlisberger will throw again tosday and barring any setbacks he likely will be back in the lineup as Pittsburgh (7-5) tries to stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
The Steelers went 1-2 in Roethlisberger's absence, though the victory came in a rousing 23-20 win at rival Baltimore last Sunday behind veteran backup Charlie Batch.
Seattle cornerback Brandon Browner has dropped the appeal of his suspension for using performance-enhancing substances and will miss the final four games of the regular season, the league announced Wednesday.
Browner's loss leaves the Seahawks without a Pro Bowl cornerback whose size and physical play has flustered wide receivers for much of the past two seasons. Walter Thurmond, who was a starter for a short time during the 2011 season before suffering a leg injury, will take Browner's spot.
Browner will be eligible to rejoin the team on Dec. 31 and will be able to play in the postseason should the Seahawks make the playoffs.
News broke after Seattle's loss at Miami on Nov. 25 that Browner and fellow starting cornerback Richard Sherman were facing suspensions after testing positive for PEDs.
A day later, Browner's agent, Peter Schaffer, said his client had no knowledge of how any banned substance got into his system, but he did not provide specifics on when an appeal might take place.
Messages left for Schaffer on Wednesday were not immediately returned. Sherman is going forward with his appeal and he can play while that is under way.
"I'm still not commenting about it, but I'm disappointed when we lose anybody by injury or whatever. These guys work so hard to be here and all of that and you come to rely on guys, and when you lose guys it's always disappointing," Carroll said. "But really where the focus goes for us is right to the guys who are stepping up."
Browner has 44 tackles, three interceptions and six passes defensed this season. He is in his second season with the Seahawks after getting pulled from the Canadian Football League because he fit the mold of what Carroll wants: big, physical cornerbacks who can play man coverage.
He was voted as a Pro Bowl alternate in his first NFL season, and ended up playing in the game. Last season he had 54 tackles and six interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Browner is the fourth Seahawks player to be suspended for a PED violation in the past calendar year, joining John Moffitt, Allen Barbre and Winston Guy.
"I've been disappointed about the whole situation, that it is something that he had to deal with it and we had to deal with it, but there is nothing we can do at this point," Carroll said.
Thurmond has played in just one game in the past 13 months, that coming last week in Chicago when he took over as Seattle's defensive back in nickel situations with veteran Marcus Trufant out with a hamstring injury. Thurmond played in six games and started three during the 2011 season before suffering a broken ankle at Cleveland.
Thurmond's injury opened up a chance of Sherman, who has developed into one of the best cover cornerbacks in football.
"It felt like I hadn't missed a step from where I was last year. I'm just trying to make progress and get better," Thurmond said. "It's really just being patient, just getting back to my technique and my form of where I was last year and continuing to get better each week."
With the Seahawks still unsure whether Trufant will be back this week, rookie Jeremy Lane will get the first chance at being the Seahawks' nickel cornerback.
Lane, a sixth-round pick out of Northwestern State in Louisiana, has yet to play a down on defense this year, but he has been a standout on special teams, especially in punt coverage. Behind Lane is second-year cornerback Byron Maxwell.
"We have some concern about it, but I also know we have forced them to compete with our best guys throughout the time and we're always anticipating with the younger guys that they are going to have to play, so they're ready to go," Carroll said. "They are as ready as they can be."
Carroll also announced that wide receiver Sidney Rice has cleared all concussion tests and is expected to play against Arizona. Rice took a shot from Major Wright on the game-winning touchdown in overtime in Chicago last Sunday.
Defensive end Red Bryant played against Chicago despite a foot injury and is expected to be able play versus Arizona. Carroll was also hopeful about linebacker Leroy Hill, who missed the Bears game with an ankle injury and was replaced by Malcolm Smith.
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