He is Mark Sanchez.
So, naturally, it wasn't a touchdown pass that recaptured confidence in his health after a labral tear in his throwing shoulder cost him all of the 2013 season. He didn't throw a highlight pass on the deep post. No, the moment this preseason when Sanchez knew his shoulder was at full strength was easily overlooked for good reason.
It was an incompletion.
The Philadelphia Eagles were driving at the end of the first half in their preseason opener against the Chicago Bears. Sanchez remembers simply wanting to get close enough for a field goal attempt. No way was he chucking the football 60 yards for an end-of-the-half Hail Mary, he thought.
Eagles coach Chip Kelly had other thoughts. Sanchez heard the play call, his moment of truth. Then the unexpected happened.
His surgically repaired shoulder had enough power to sail the football through the end zone.
"I think after that point, it was that last physical hurdle I needed to jump over to feel good and comfortable and ready to go," Sanchez said Wednesday on a conference call with local media in Green Bay. "Just like guys when they come back from a knee injury or whatever, they have that one play where they make a cut and don't think about it anymore. It was kind of that play that really eased all my – not really fears – but any of my doubt of being physically ready to play and take hits and all that kind of stuff.
"After that, I felt like I was ready to go."
Given a second chance at a career in Philadelphia, things have gone just fine. At least so far. Sanchez will be the Eagles' starting quarterback – replacing the injured Nick Foles – when the Green Bay Packers host them 3:25 p.m. Sunday at Lambeau Field.
It wasn't long ago Sanchez's odds of resurrecting his career were written off. Even now, it's premature to assume Sanchez is all the way back on track after one good start – and another good finish the week before – in Foles' absence.
Still, it's hard to argue with numbers, especially when they're produced for all the nation to see on Monday Night Football. For the first time in his career, Sanchez threw for 300 yards and had no turnovers while leading the Eagles to a blowout win over the Carolina Panthers.
This week, the Packers aren't taking him lightly. Packers defensive end Datone Jones played against Sanchez when he was a freshman at UCLA. He knows what the former USC quarterback can do when healthy and surrounded by talent.
"He has a second opportunity," Jones said. "I don't know if you guys ever fell short before, but you get a second chance to do something that you really love, you've got to take advantage of it. That's what I can tell when I watch him on film. That's what he's doing."
Sanchez said he didn't need a fresh start, even after the spectacular train wreck that was the end of his tenure with the New York Jets. For the past year, his goal was to get healthy. Nothing more.
After the Jets traded up to draft him sixth overall in 2009, Sanchez was expected to be the savior for a struggling franchise. Ultimately, it didn't work out. Sanchez led New York to consecutive AFC Championship Games in his first two seasons, but the team began to crumble in his final two seasons as the starter.
By the end, thing got ugly. The jokes kept flying. You remember the Butt Fumble.
Sanchez said he doesn't regret his time in New York. He remembers talking with Jets coach Rex Ryan after being drafted. The message was clear.
"Rex talked about the highs are going to be even higher here, and the lows are going to be even lower here, just because of the sensationalized market," Sanchez said. "You're either the best, or you're the worst. There's no in between, whether you go 8-8 or not. If you don't win the Super Bowl, then you're a bum. That's just the way it is in that market.
"By no means do I have some sort of vendetta or anything like that. That's not the way I am. I'm too positive for that. I had a great experience in New York – the good, the bad and the ugly. It was all fun."
Philly is no cake walk, either. If the Packers get the better of Sanchez on Sunday, next week could be a different tune.
Sanchez isn't looking that far ahead. He knows each week is different in the NFL. Each week, another challenge. In Green Bay, a tough test is waiting.
Whatever his future holds, Sanchez said he'll always remember the lessons gained in New York.
"I learned a ton from it," Sanchez said. "Then I came here to Philly and took that experience, improved on some of the things I needed to clean up, and built on some of the things that went well. … Now we're in this situation. I've gotten an opportunity here, and I just want to make the most of it."
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