FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Mark Sanchez wakes up these days and hops out of bed, pain free.
The New York Jets quarterback is no longer concerned about his surgically repaired left knee, confident he'll be ready to fully participate in minicamp in less than two weeks.
"Everyday, it's feeling better and that's been key," Sanchez said Thursday. "After long days of work and lower-body lifting days, the big thing is coming back the next day not swollen, achy or hurting. It's been great."
Sanchez had the patella-stabilizing ligament in the knee repaired in February, and he has participated in individual and passing drills since organized team activities began a few weeks ago.
"You see him in the seven-on-seven drills, he looks fantastic," coach Rex Ryan said.
He has only been involved in one 11-on-11 drill — a handoff last week that was unplanned — as a result of the team being cautious and not wanting to rush him back.
"If things keep going the way they are, if they progress the way they are now, I'm confident I'll be ready to go," Sanchez said of the three-day minicamp that begins June 14. "It's ultimately going to be up to the training staff and Rex. I feel good about it. I'm confident."
Team doctors have told Sanchez he's coming along faster than most who have had the same procedure. Sanchez said the most unsettling part of the rehabilitation process was dealing with the scar tissue popping in the weeks following the surgery.
"Part of it is the psychological rehab, too," he said. "You want to feel right about it in your head first, and that's why we do all the exercises in the training room. My feet are under me and I'm getting some good spin on the ball, really using my legs."
Sanchez has spent much of the offseason getting a better feel for the offense by studying the playbook and hunkering down in meeting rooms with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
"All of that time rehabbing the injury has been a blessing because he's been here with the coaches all the time," Ryan said. "He really knows our offense. It shows."
Ryan raved about Sanchez through much of last season as the quarterback showed great poise as a rookie. The coach has been thoroughly impressed by the jump Sanchez has taken, despite still recovering from the surgery.
"He's throwing the ball as well now as he did at any point of the year last year," Ryan said. "He looks tremendous to me."
Sanchez acknowledged that there were times last season when he would have to pause for a second when Schottenheimer would give him a play. Not anymore.
"It's to the point where Schotty is barely starting to get the play call out of his mouth and I'm starting to walk away and he's grabbing me to make sure I get the whole call," Sanchez said. "But I feel good about it. That's the way I want it to be."
Sanchez is also planning a get-together in California in early July with all of the receivers so they can continue to bond on the field. He did something similar when he was at Southern California.
"We're figuring out a way to get everybody out there, work on some routes and stuff that wanted to do whether I was healthy of hurt during these OTAs," Sanchez said. "I think not being in these OTAs is even more important to get these extra reps to make up for a little lost time we had in OTAs and make sure we're sharp going into (training) camp."
Sanchez, showing all the signs of the leader the Jets want him to be, hopes to make the gathering an annual event.
"I don't want to kill these guys," he said with a smile. "We'll have fun with it."