Adam Gase doesn’t want to jinx anything, but he’s happy that the Jets have managed to stay on the field during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Jets witnessed firsthand last week how quickly a seemingly COVID-free week can turn into a mass quarantine. The Browns were without top receivers Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, KhaDarel Hodge and Donovan Peoples-Jones in the Jets’ 23-16 victory last Sunday.
The four receivers, along with two linebackers, were announced as ineligible for the game only a day earlier.
"You never knew when that was going to happen," Gase said. "It’s hard to sit there and prepare for it because you never knew where it was coming from or what position group would be affected or what players would be affected."
Gase will be without rookie running back La’Mical Perine, who was the first Jets player to test positive for COVID-19 this season, on Sunday against New England in the season finale for both teams.
Foley Fatukasi and Ryan Griffin missed games after being deemed close contacts earlier in the year but never tested positive.
"We still have a couple days to go," Gase said. "I don’t want to get too far ahead after seeing what happened with Cleveland last week. I think guys are trying to do the right things. Hopefully we can finish it off the right way."
Gase credited the players and coaches for making personal sacrifices and said he was unsure at the start of the season how the pandemic would affect the season.
"I don’t know what I expected, to be honest with you," he said. "I knew it was going to be challenging because you are at the mercy of something you can’t really see."
The Jets and the entire NFL have reached the final week of the regular season with each team about to play its 16th game — which wasn’t always a given.
Because the Jets do not have playoff hopes — or even draft- pick drama for scoreboard-watching fans to follow — Gase said he might use some younger players who haven’t had as much on-field experience.
Linebacker Neville Hewitt said the final practice of the season was focused on the business at hand rather than relief that a disappointing season is concluding.
"I think everybody knows we have one game left and we are still on our mission to complete that and win that game," the six-year veteran said. "I think everybody came today with the attitude to execute, finishing cleaning up the things we need to clean up and get ready for Sunday to compete at a high level."
As for who will line up for the Patriots, much of that is unknown. New England has a rather extensive injury list.
Gase said the Jets have been preparing for the possibility of either Cam Newton or Jarrett Stidham starting at quarterback. Newton has started 14 games but Stidham has appeared in three of the last four games, including Monday’s 38-9 loss to Buffalo. Bill Belichick hasn’t announced the starter.