FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Deep breath, Jets fans. It appears Mark Sanchez is going to play.
The second-year quarterback was listed as probable on New York's injury report Friday and coach Rex Ryan fully expects Sanchez to be under center, barring a late setback, to start in the team's game at Chicago on Sunday after being limited with a sore right shoulder.
"Today, I don't think there was any question that he was out to say, 'Hey look, I'm fine,'" Ryan said. "He was. He threw it good. He never grimaced or anything else. He's feeling good. He really feels good right now."
Sanchez injured the shoulder — some published reports say he suffered a slight cartilage tear — during New York's second drive in last Sunday's 22-17 win at Pittsburgh, but finished the game and played well. He was 19 of 29 for 170 yards, ran for a touchdown and snapped an eight-game interception streak.
Sanchez was limited in practice for the third straight day, but showed improvement. During the half-hour window the media were allowed to watch Friday, Sanchez appeared to have good velocity on his passes.
"I threw it just like I did the week before and throughout the season," Sanchez said in a statement. "The treatment has been working. I felt better than the two days prior, and I'm going to be ready to play on Sunday."
Sanchez frequently rotated his arm to keep it loose in between throws in the 30-degree temperatures.
"The thing we have to watch for now is how he comes back (Saturday)," Ryan said. "He really pushed it and threw a lot of balls today, so we'll see how he comes back from it. Is it 100 percent? Probably not, but it's close."
Sanchez insisted earlier in the week that he would be able to play, especially with the Jets (10-4) able to secure a playoff spot with a win over the Bears (10-4).
Ryan at first said there was a 90 percent chance Sanchez would play, but downgraded it quite a bit Thursday after seeing little zip on his passes.
"I was like, 'Ooh, that's not going to cut it,'" Ryan said. "That's how I looked at it. It got better, but I had those thoughts that, 'Man, that's just not NFL caliber.' Today, I think we all saw, he was zipping it.
"He sent a message to all of us, mainly me, that he's ready to go."
Sanchez's teammates were also impressed by his performance in practice Friday, leaving little doubt in their minds that he will start at Soldier Field.
"Unless he feels terrible in the morning," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said. "As of right now, I think he looks good enough to play."
Added wide receiver Santonio Holmes: "He was on point. He had a couple of bad throws here and there, wasn't trusting himself, didn't get into the feel until midway through practice but other than that, he felt great. He threw after practice, and I think it's all going to be fine."
Mark Brunell, a 40-year-old former Pro Bowler, had been preparing to start in case Sanchez couldn't. He started New Orleans' regular-season finale last year while the Saints rested Drew Brees for their Super Bowl run. Brunell's last previous start came in 2006 with Washington.
"I think he sensed as the week went on that there might be a chance (to play)," Ryan said.
Meanwhile, defensive lineman Trevor Pryce will miss his second straight game with a hip injury, and will not make the trip with the team to Chicago.
"He's just not ready yet," Ryan said. "He's not to 100 percent. It's been a nagging thing and hopefully he'll be ready next week."
Safety Eric Smith is listed as doubtful while he recovers from a concussion, but Ryan said he will travel with the team and could be used in an emergency. Safety James Ihedigbo is questionable with an injured right knee and high ankle sprain, but is expected to play — as he did last week.
Holmes (turf toe) and cornerback Darrelle Revis (right hamstring) were limited, but will play against the Bears.