FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Geno Smith walked up to his teammates on the New York Jets' defense after another turnover-filled performance and said he was sorry.
For two more interceptions. For two more fumbles. And, for letting another game slip away.
"I felt that I owed the defense an apology," the rookie quarterback said Monday. "I just wanted to talk to those guys and let them know that I was aware of my mistakes and that I wanted to clean them up and that I will clean them up."
Smith had a miserable game in the Jets' 38-13 loss at Tennessee on Sunday as New York fell to 2-2. His four turnovers directly resulted in 28 points for the Titans.
"It's just taking ownership to your mistakes and manning up," he said. "I think guys respect that more than anything."
Smith has eight interceptions and three lost fumbles, tying him with the Giants' Eli Manning for most turnovers in the league.
There was lots of talk by the Jets in the offseason about limiting mistakes after Mark Sanchez led the league with 52 turnovers over the last two years. Unfortunately for the Jets, it's a new season and a new quarterback, but the same results so far.
"A lot falls on my shoulders as far as taking care of the ball, but that's something I have to do," Smith said. "I know that I've been coached hard. No one wants to make those mistakes.
"It's something that has to stop now in order for us to progress and to get better as an offense and as a team."
Despite Smith's struggles, coach Rex Ryan isn't considering benching him in favor of the inexperienced Matt Simms or veteran Brady Quinn.
"It's not a thought at this point right now," Ryan said. "Not a thought."
Sanchez, meanwhile, is on the injured reserve list with a designation to return with a shoulder injury. He has so far chosen to rehabilitate the injury rather than have surgery, so there's a slim chance he could play later this season.
But until then, it appears it's Smith. Turnovers and all.
Both Smith and Ryan pointed at a few of the five sacks, and how Smith needed to get rid of the ball quicker, even if it was to just throw it into the ground. The offensive line was inconsistent, too, giving Smith loads of time on some plays, while collapsing immediately on others.
As for the fumbles, Smith acknowledged he needs to make sure he keeps both hands on the ball when he scrambles. He had a 3-yard run for a first down on a third-down play in the second quarter, but had the ball tomahawked out of his hand as Tennessee recovered — and later scored a touchdown.
"It's just one of those habits you need to break in order for this team to be the team that we want to be," Smith said. "A part of that is my job to take care of the ball and put two hands on it."
Ryan, however, refused to place all the blame on Smith for the team's inconsistent performances through the first four games. A week after racking up a team-record 20 penalties in a 27-20 victory over Buffalo, the Jets had 10 more at Tennessee. So there will likely be plenty more penalty pushups at practice this week.
Even the defense, ranked No. 2 in the league, had some subpar moments. The Jets also have caused only two turnovers, second least in the NFL, something Ryan said also needs to improve.
"We've got to fix a lot of different things," Ryan said. "Penalties are obviously one. We have to take care of the football better. We've got to really look at what we're doing, and are we putting our players in the best situation? We've got to take a hard look. Not just with the players, but the coaches as well.
"And that's exactly what we're going to do."
There are some health concerns on offense with wide receivers Stephen Hill (concussion) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) dealing with injuries that leave uncertain their status for the Jets' next game at Atlanta next Monday night. Ryan said Hill is going through the NFL's concussion protocol after getting hit in the head by Michael Griffin on the Jets' second offensive play — an interception thrown by Smith.
Running back Chris Ivory remains sidelined with a hamstring injury and his status is also uncertain, but the Jets' backfield should get a boost from the return of Mike Goodson. The versatile running back finished serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and could serve as a pass-catching threat and kick returner.
"Words can't even express how excited I am," Goodson said, "just being able to be back out there."
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