FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Sam Darnold looked and sounded like someone who will be leading the Jets' offense Sunday.
The rookie practiced in full Wednesday for the first time since straining his right foot Nov. 4 in a loss at Miami. Darnold also was the first quarterback under center during drills. Last week, Josh McCown was, and he played in Tennessee while Darnold was inactive.
All signs are pointing toward Darnold's return from a three-game absence when the Jets play the Bills Sunday at Buffalo.
“That’s the goal,” Darnold said. “I’m very excited about this week and where we’re headed. I’m very excited about how I felt today. As of right now, I’m really excited about hopefully getting a chance to play on Sunday.”
Darnold is couching it because Todd Bowles wouldn’t officially name him the starter. Darnold would have to have a setback for him not to play and start Sunday. McCown was only a limited participant Wednesday because of a back injury. But Bowles said he wants to see how Darnold progresses this week.
“He’s got to stay healthy,” Bowles said. “He’s got to get the rust off. He’s got to get the game plan down. He got reps last week. We’ll continue to give him reps this week. We’ll monitor as it goes along and we’ll make a decision at the end of the week.”
The Jets (3-9) have lost six straight games, will have their third straight losing season and will miss the playoffs for the eighth consecutive time. All that’s really left is for Darnold to get back on the field and continue his development. The last time he played, he threw a season-high four interceptions against the Dolphins and didn’t lead a touchdown drive.
He practiced last week, but on only a limited basis. Darnold said there was some soreness Wednesday because this was the most he’s done in more than a month. He also said that as difficult as it was to sit, he knew he was going to be sidelined for as long as he was.
“For me, it was really just depending on how I felt, if I felt ready to go,” he said. “So hopefully this week. So far I feel really good. I’m really hoping to get back out there Sunday.”
Darnold admitted to being a little rusty. He said some of his throws early in practice were a little low or a little high and that he wasn’t getting the ball to his receivers in stride. But he said that improved as practice continued, and he felt more comfortable at the end.
“I feel really good,” Darnold said. “For me mentally, it was pretty nice to get out there to get some reps.”
“He looked like Sam,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “He’s been putting in the work mentally. Physically, he didn’t have too many hurdles to go over since it wasn’t his hand or his leg. He looked good.”
More importantly, Darnold felt good in the cold. The young man who grew up in Southern California wasn’t wearing a long sleeve shirt under his practice jersey. He braved the frigid temps in preparation for the weather he will face in Orchard Park.
But Darnold did have some extra protection.
“I felt comfortable out there,” he said. “It was cold today. But I had a little wetsuit underneath, so I was really warm and felt like I didn’t really need long sleeves, so I just kind of went with it.
“I know it might be a little bit colder in Buffalo. I’ll deal with it when it gets here. When I get to Buffalo and it’s really cold, I’m going to have to deal with it somehow. I’ll deal with it like anyone else would.”