FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Mark Sanchez smiled for a split-second when a reporter labeled him as the most scrutinized guy in the New York Jets' locker room.
"Nooo," the quarterback said, dripping with sarcasm.
Yep, it's true. And it's been that way for more than three years now, long before Tim Tebow ever got here. But the arrival of the world's most popular backup quarterback means even more attention focused not only on what Tebow does, but every throw Sanchez makes — even if it's only the third day of the Jets' organized team activities.
"His popularity draws a lot of this," Sanchez said Thursday, motioning toward the throng of reporters and cameras around him. "But at the same time, I wouldn't be in this position if I couldn't handle it. I'm prepared for it."
Sanchez has had a few months to do so, ever since the Jets surprised the NFL — and their starting quarterback — by pulling off a deal to acquire the popular Tebow from the Denver Broncos. Despite all the doubts among fans and media that the two can co-exist, Sanchez has been nothing but complimentary of his new teammate.
"I know he's going to help us all over the field," Sanchez said. "I think that's good for us."
Sanchez was sharp in the Jets' first session of OTAs open to the media, while Tebow threw two interceptions in a three-play span.
Sure, it's only May, and the Jets have made it clear that Sanchez is the starting quarterback, but it was an encouraging performance. The play of the day was Sanchez's 80-yard toss to speedy second-round draft pick Stephen Hill.
"This kid is in great shape, as are most of the guys, but I just think he's stronger," coach Rex Ryan said. "That arm, it looks stronger to me. He's really zipping it and also throwing with touch."
Meanwhile, Tebow, who was acquired in March to be Sanchez's backup, was picked off by Bart Scott and then newly signed Yeremiah Bell two plays later in 7-on-7 drills.
"We've had some ups and downs," Ryan said. "He was better the first day (of OTAs) ... but I think he's done well."
UNION LEADER SAYS FACTS PROVE NFL COLLUSION CLAIM: NFL players union chief DeMaurice Smith says his group's claim of collusion will stand up in court.
The NFL Players Association claimed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on Wednesday that the 32 teams had a secret salary cap in place during the uncapped 2010 season, and that it cost players at least $1 billion in wages.
"Cartels do what cartels will do when left unchecked," Smith said Thursday outside union headquarters. "The facts justify the complaint."
On Wednesday, hours after the court action, the NFL issued a statement saying "the union's claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello also said: "There was no collusion. There was no agreement. These claims are totally unfounded."
GIANTS' NICKS BREAKS RIGHT FOOT: New York Giants receiver Hakeem Nicks is expected to be sidelined up to three months after breaking his right foot at a team organized activity early Thursday.
Nicks fractured the fifth metatarsal of his right foot as he was running a route during individual drills in the Timex Performance Center field house, the team said in a release later in the afternoon.
Nicks is scheduled to have surgery Friday to have a screw inserted into the broken bone. The procedure will be performed by foot and ankle specialist Dr. Robert Anderson in Charlotte, N.C. The expected recovery time for Nicks is approximately 12 weeks.
The Giants, who lost Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham to free agency, have depth at receiver with B returning along with Domenik Hixon, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, and Ramses Barden. Second-round draft pick Rueben Randle showed a lot of talent in the recent rookie minicamp, as well.
New York is scheduled to report to training camp at the University at Albany on July 26.
The fifth metatarsal generally takes a long time to heal because there isn't a lot of blood flow to the area.
LEAGUE, ON-FIELD OFFICIALS AGREE TO MEDIATION: The NFL and its referees' union have agreed to federal mediation.
George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will conduct the talks between the on-field officials and the league. Cohen also mediated between the NFL and its players' union before last year's lockout.
No dates or sites have been announced for the mediation.
The officials' contract with the league expired after the 2011 season. The NFL is looking into replacement officials if a new deal is not reached by the preseason.
In 2001, replacement officials were used for one preseason game and the first week of the regular season before a contract was finalized.