LOS ANGELES – Rookie Geno Smith hopes to be mentored to NFL success by the same man whose likely retirement took him one step closer to the New York Jets' starting quarterback job.
Despite competing for the same position, Smith and seasoned vet David Garrard established a close friendship in the few weeks since the former West Virginia standout was taken with the 39th pick of last month's NFL draft.
Smith heard the news that injury was forcing Garrard to walk away from the game when he landed in Los Angeles on Wednesday for an NFL Players Association rookie gathering. Smith then reached out to Garrard to offer his condolences.
Garrard responded immediately with his thanks – and an offer to assist Smith in any way possible as he battles Mark Sanchez for the right to lead the Jets' offense in Week 1.
"David is a guy I got to know once I got drafted. He always handled himself as a professional and I look forward to learning from him," Smith told Yahoo! Sports on Thursday. "He has already expressed to me that he is there for me and I look forward to seeing how things go with the competition. I am still going to text him and call him for advice and it says a lot about him that he wants to help like that."
"I understand that he wanted to be a part of the team but his body was breaking down on him and he had to make a decision that was best for himself."
Garrard spent nearly a decade with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After being out of the league for two years in large part because of health reasons, he was brought in by Jets general manager John Idzik this offseason to provide additional quarterback competition. The 35-year-old’s impressive early workouts put him in strong contention to win the starting job, before the news this week that his troublesome knee injury would force him to step aside.
Garrard’s departure would appear to greatly boost Smith's chances of starting ahead of Sanchez, who is the Jets’ primary personnel headache following two years of miserable play and a salary of $8.25 million. Jets coach Rex Ryan spoke positively about Smith's skill set following the team's rookie minicamp last week and if he can silence doubts about whether he has the mindset and maturity to step right into the hot seat the position could be his.
Which is where Garard comes in.
"A lot of it with David is about learning from him, learning to be a pro," Smith said. "He has definitely helped with so far with that, in all aspects. He helped me deal with practices, different things on and off the field.
"He wants me to just be the guy, to be yourself, prove to your teammates you can come and play but don't put that burden on yourself."
Smith was originally pegged as a likely first-round draft selection and the top quarterback prospect of his class, but he eventually slipped and subsequently fired his agents. He's reportedly mulling Jay-Z's Roc Nation as his marketing reps but more than anything, wants to prove to the teams that passed on him wrong.
He has taken encouragement from the performances of last year's rookie class, and feels the productivity of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson has caused NFL coaching staffs to be more open-minded about throwing inexperienced players in the deep end."Those guys came right in and were young leaders and handled themselves, made plays and made their teams better," Smith added. "How it works is the best man wins. This league is about wins. Whoever the best guy for the job – if he is 34 or 24 – it is about putting the best man on the field."
NFL.com video on the Jets' QB competition:
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