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Jets' owner has say

Johnson supports QB, disputes Tomlinson

New Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was 10-38 as Rams coach. New Saints defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo was 10-38 as Rams coach. (File/Tom Gannam/Associated Press)
Associated Press / January 20, 2012
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Mark Sanchez is still the Jets’ quarterback of the future. At least for now.

Owner Woody Johnson supported his embattled quarterback while meeting yesterday with writers who regularly cover the team for the first time since the Jets finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. But Johnson also wouldn’t rule out the possibility of pursuing a veteran such as Peyton Manning if the Colts star became available.

“I’m not going to ever tell you guys what we may or may not do,’’ Johnson said. “Our job, and my job for the fans, is to take this team to the very top level, and I’ve said that from the beginning. And I have a lot of confidence that we can do it. So, we’re going to look at everything. We’re going to look at every possibility, and that’s what you’d want us to do.’’

Johnson said, “There’s no such thing as 100 percent’’ when asked if Sanchez would definitely be the starter next season.

“Barring whatever,’’ he said, “yes.’’

That “whatever’’ could be the status of Manning, who missed the season after numerous operations on his neck.

“With Mark, you have a 25-year-old quarterback that you can develop,’’ Johnson said. “You can have a quarterback for 10 years with a guy like this. These guys are not available every day. We have a lot of confidence in Mark. We think he’s our guy. We’re blessed that we have a guy that we feel can climb the ladder and he can do everything. He’s got the work ethic and has all the ingredients in place to be a great quarterback.’’

Johnson also is “concerned, but I’m confident’’ that the fractured relationship between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes can be mended.

Johnson acknowledged that he might sit down with the two, either individually or together, at some point. He added that Holmes will definitely be back. The Jets are tied to Holmes after they gave him a five-year, $45 million deal last offseason - something the owner doesn’t regret.

“He may be one of the best players we’ve ever had here,’’ said Johnson said.

Johnson also disputed LaDainian Tomlinson’s claim on Showtime’s “Inside The NFL’’ that the Jets had the worst locker room tension he has ever seen, saying the running back might have overstated things.

“I didn’t feel a toxicity in the locker room,’’ Johnson said, adding that he’ll talk to Tomlinson to clarify his statements. “I hear what LaDainian [is saying]. I respect LaDainian at the highest level, but I don’t think the whole locker room was toxic. I think there were clearly a few players that had conflicts . . . Would you love to have total harmony? Maybe. But maybe it’s good to have a little bit of disharmony also. But they have to care about each other.’’

Saints hire Spagnuolo

Former Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has agreed to take over as Saints defensive coordinator, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press.

Spagnuolo, 52, was head coach in St. Louis the past three seasons and was fired this month after going 10-38 with the Rams. Before that he was defensive coordinator for the Giants, a stint that included a Super Bowl upset of the Patriots.

Spagnuolo’s Rams defense ranked 22d this season, but was stellar against the Saints, sacking Drew Brees six times and intercepting him twice in the most lopsided loss the Saints had all season.

Colts’ changes continue

Two weeks after cleaning out the front office and two days after firing coach Jim Caldwell, the Colts announced most of Caldwell’s assistants are out of work, too. Among the eight assistant coaches let go were defensive line coach John Teerlinck; Frank Reich, the onetime quarterbacks coach who coached the receivers; and longtime conditioning coach Jon Torine. Linebackers coach Mike Murphy, who served on the staffs of Jim Mora, Tony Dungy, and Caldwell and was promoted to defensive coordinator in late November, decided to retire. And defensive backs coach Alan Williams is leaving after 10 seasons to become the Vikings’ defensive coordinator . . . Bengals receiver Jerome Simpson was indicted on one count of marijuana trafficking in excess of 8 ounces, a felony count that carries up to five years in jail. He’s scheduled for arraignment Jan. 30 . . . Broncos safety Brian Dawkins, Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, Texans center Chris Myers, defensive end Antonio Smith, and Raiders long snapper Jon Condo were added to Pro Bowl rosters . . . Bears director of player personnel Tim Ruskell interviewed for the team’s general manager job.

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