ASHBURN, Va. — The question about that one particular, infamous play wasn’t complete when Mark Sanchez interrupted to deliver a perfectly straight-faced, deadpan response.
“I’m not following,” he said.
For a guy who was a first-round NFL draft pick and played in a pair of AFC title games at the outset of his professional career, Sanchez knows — fairly or not — his name is associated with “The Butt Fumble.” And so he was able to crack a smile — and a retort — when it was brought up at a news conference Wednesday before Sanchez participated in his first practice as the Washington Redskins’ latest starting quarterback.
He’ll be on the field Sunday when Washington (6-6) hosts the New York Giants (4-8).
“What are you going to do? It was a crappy play in a game we were getting our butts kicked,” Sanchez said about that turnover after running into one of his linemen during his New York Jets’ 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving Day six years ago.
“Some low-hanging fruit, so that was an easy reach for you,” he said. “I’m just kidding! I’m just kidding! Come on. You can give it to me; I can give it right back. Come on. Thick skin in here, huh? No, listen: Who cares? It’s one play. And just move on. I prefer to remember the good stuff.”
Which, of course, is exactly what he should do.
Let others focus on a long-ago blunder — as many on Twitter did during Washington’s 28-13 loss to Philadelphia on Monday night, when Sanchez recovered his own fumble by holding the ball against his behind.
“In my mind, he shouldn’t let that (2012 play for the Jets) define him,” said Giants coach Pat Shurmur, who was the offensive coordinator for Sanchez when both were with the Eagles in 2014-15. “We are all involved in many, many plays and many, many games. There’s many, many good things that happen. You’re involved in a lot of wins and, unfortunately, you’re involved once in a while in a bad play or a bad game.”
The 32-year-old Sanchez hasn’t won a regular-season start in almost exactly four years. And he has thrown for more interceptions (87) than TDs (86) in the NFL.
But he was the only QB the team had after Alex Smith and Colt McCoy each went down with a broken right leg in a span of three games.
“In some ways, two weeks ago, it was an unfamiliar position. But really, historically, it’s a familiar position. That’s what makes it fun. You work for something, you pray for something, and then it finally happens — you don’t care what the circumstances are,” Sanchez said. “You’re just happy to get a shot.”
He joked Wednesday about being unfamiliar with his teammates: “Don’t ask me their names.”
Joked, too, about Adrian Peterson’s 90-yard touchdown run against Philadelphia on Sanchez’s first play after entering for the injured McCoy: “That was a pretty good handoff, huh?”
Now, though, coach Jay Gruden knows that Washington’s faint playoff hopes rest with a QB who was signed a couple of weeks ago.
“It’s not easy for any quarterback, no matter how long you play. If you don’t get any reps in training camp or preseason or regular season with the guys you’re playing with, and you don’t know the terminology, so to speak, it’s a great challenge,” Gruden said about Sanchez. “But he’s a veteran guy and I think he’ll do the best he can.”