NFL notes: Geno Smith to start for Jets vs. Buccaneers

Geno Smith is the new face of the franchise for the Jets.

Well, at least for the opening game of the season.

The rookie quarterback will start for the Jets in the opener at home Sunday against the Buccaneers. The Jets finally confirmed Wednesday what had been expected since Mark Sanchez injured his right shoulder in a preseason game against the Giants on Aug. 24.


‘‘They’ll try to rattle my cage,’’ Smith said of the Buccaneers. ‘‘I expect those guys to come out fired up and they want to make a statement. They’ll want to hit me and get me off my game, but I expect those things. And I look forward to it.’’

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Smith, who had an up-and-down preseason, was the team’s second-round draft pick out of West Virginia after he was projected by many to be selected early in the opening round. After Smith threw three interceptions and took a safety in three-plus quarters against the Giants, it was widely assumed Sanchez had won the job. But coach Rex Ryan chose to put Sanchez in the game in the fourth quarter — and he suffered the injury that could sideline him several weeks.

Despite announcing Smith as the starter for this week, Ryan wouldn’t commit to him long term. It was an approach that was echoed by both owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik.

‘‘We’ll always put the best player we can on the field on Sunday, and that will continue,’’ Johnson said. ‘‘The competition’s ongoing.’’

Meanwhile, Santonio Holmes (foot injury) will likely be on the field for the opener but whether the receiver plays or remains on the sideline is the big question.


‘‘I still don’t know,’’ Holmes said. ‘‘Still haven’t gotten any word from the doctors yet on whether I should be playing or not, so I'm just going to keep playing it by ear.’’

Gabbert up in the air

A decision on Jaguars quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s return from a broken thumb could stretch until game day.

Coach Gus Bradley said the decision ‘‘very easily could’’ last until before Sunday’s game against Kansas City.

Gabbert sustained a hairline fracture in his right thumb during the team’s second preseason game, Aug. 17 at the Jets. Gabbert sat out the final two exhibitions, and team doctors thought he would be healthy enough to play against the Chiefs.

He started gripping a football last week and making throws. But it remains to be seen how his thumb will hold up during live action or with the pounding of snaps.


And tight end Marcedes Lewis left practice early after reinjuring his left calf. Lewis missed part of training camp and the final three preseason games because of the injury.

A slide rule

Michael Vick said it’s taken him 10 years to learn when to slide. Robert Griffin III figures he’ll have it down pat just a few days from now.

‘‘Monday night,’’ the Redskins quarterback said, adding a big smile as he spoke to reporters. ‘‘I mean, you guys have been talking to me about it for eight months. I think it’s ingrained in my head now.” I'll be getting down on Monday night.’’

After eight months of rehab on his reconstructed right knee, it’s finally all-systems-go for Griffin to play in the prime-time Week 1 opener against Vick and the Eagles. Griffin said there’s a chance he could be even more emotional than when he made his NFL debut a year ago. His stated goal: ‘‘Play like you were never gone.’’

Concussion for Ansah

The Lions acknowledged that rookie defensive lineman Ziggy Ansah is recovering from a concussion. Ansah, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, did not travel for the team’s preseason finale at Buffalo last week. He was believed to have hurt his head after colliding with a teammate in practice Aug. 24. Coach Jim Schwartz wouldn’t give any details on Ansah’s status but he was listed with a concussion on the team’s official injury report . . . The Rams waived outside linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar rather than wait for the second-leading tackler from last season to serve a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Coach Jeff Fisher said there’s always a chance the Rams could re-sign Dunbar, who starred at BC . . . The Bengals returned veteran offensive tackle Dennis Roland to their roster and added former Jets backup quarterback Greg McElroy to their practice squad.

Bears faked injuries

Former Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher admitted the team faked some injuries by using a designated “dive guy,’’ the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Urlacher, who retired after last season and is now an analyst on Fox Sports 1, said faking injuries was part of Chicago’s game plan . . . 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith and former Niners tight end Delanie Walker were named in a lawsuit by a Northern California man who said he was shot during a party at Smith’s house. David Kleczek, an attorney for Ronndale Esporlas, claims that Smith and Walker fired weapons illegally during a party at Smith’s San Jose home on June 29, 2012. Smith and Walker were allegedly intoxicated on Smith’s balcony when they later fired gunshots in the air while trying to end the party, and Esporlas was caught in crossfire, the lawsuit said . . . The players’ union has set up a system to provide safe rides for its members. The agreement with Uber Technologies allows players to use smartphone technology to connect to reliable drivers. The union said the partnership ‘‘underscores the NFLPA’s ongoing commitment to ensuring its members have access to safe, discreet and professional transportation when they need it.’’