N.F.L. ROUNDUP; Sanchez Is Practicing And Preparing for Cold

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez on Wednesday returned to practice for the first time since he sprained his right knee against the Buffalo Bills on Dec. 3.

Sanchez said he felt no pain and experienced no immediate swelling. He also said he planned to play Sunday, although the Jets held off on naming him the starter against Atlanta until they evaluated his knee on Thursday.

”It just felt good to be back out there on the field,” Sanchez said. ”It felt like it’s been forever.”

In reality, it has been 13 days, but that is 13 days of treatment and recovery instead of football. Kellen Clemens started in place of Sanchez last weekend at Tampa, and he helped the Jets win their third consecutive game.

Sanchez, who was wearing custom-made braces on his knees, joked that he looked like Forrest Gump. The braces are measured to fit the knee snugly, and Sanchez said they are made from fabric, Velcro and metal.

To prepare for the cold weather Sunday at Giants Stadium, Sanchez said jokingly that he did not wear sleeves to practice to thicken his blood.

He said he also knew how important the game Sunday is. At 7-6, the Jets are still in the playoff race, but they will probably need to win their last three games, and they will still need help with losses by other teams.

”This is huge, each week,” Sanchez said. ”We knew that coming down the stretch here that if we want to have a chance to play longer than Jan. 3, we need to win a few games. That is what we are trying to do and we have another tough team coming into our place.”

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