The Jets haven’t won a game in 2020, but Sam Darnold still has his mind and heart set on finishing the season the right way.
For Darnold that means on the field with his teammates, fighting until there’s no time left, perhaps in his Jets career.
Darnold tried to push through the pain in his right throwing shoulder in practice last week. But he didn’t feel right and ended up missing Monday’s last-second 30-27 loss to the Patriots. The Jets are on a bye this week. Darnold hopes he can return to face the Chargers on Nov. 22 in Los Angeles.
"I knew that giving it a week or two would definitely be the best decision to make," Darnold said during a Zoom call Tuesday afternoon. "It was a hard decision, but I went with my gut on it. I think this next week and a half, two weeks is going to be key to let this thing recover and heal all the way so I can finish out the season strong."
If Darnold can’t play, Joe Flacco will start against the Chargers. Flacco was enjoying a throwback game for three quarters against New England. He threw for three touchdowns, matching Darnold’s total for the season.
But in the fourth quarter, Flacco was 1-for-3 for 8 yards and a costly interception that set up the Patriots’ game-tying drive. New England won on Nick Folk's 51-yard field goal as time expired.
It dropped the Jets to 0-9 for the first time in their inglorious history and kept them in the lead in the race for the first overall draft pick. If they get it, the Jets are expected to take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and deal Darnold for draft capital.
Darnold has heard all the talk and knows the situation. But the third-year quarterback isn’t bailing on his teammates. He plans to play if he’s able.
"For me, it’s always been about making sure that my body’s right to play no matter what," he said. "It doesn’t matter where we’re at in the season. For me, personally, it’s about going out there and playing ball with my guys and my teammates. That’s really all I’m thinking about."
Darnold’s future as a Jet has been a major topic with each loss.
He hasn’t done enough to earn the label franchise quarterback. He has thrown twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes in six games this season, and his 65.9 passer rating ranks 32nd among quarterbacks who have played at least five games.
It’s fair to note that Darnold hasn’t played a game with the Jets’ starting receiving corps. They were together for the first time on Monday, and the offense looked totally different. The three touchdowns scored was a season high and equaled their total for the previous five games combined.
"There were so many things that were really good," coach Adam Gase said.
Gase has said repeatedly he would like to see what Darnold does with his full complement of skill players. Gase hopes that happens a week from Sunday.
Darnold had an MRI on his shoulder last week, which didn’t reveal any structural damage. The Jets have gotten multiple opinions to make sure everyone agrees that Darnold can’t do any further damage when he plays.
During this bye, Darnold said he would get treatment and that the training staff would come up with some type of regimen of when he can start throwing again.
"I like where his mind frame is and how he’s approaching everything," Gase said. "It’s really going to come down to how he feels when he goes through practice.
"Having that extra week to go through the day-by-day steps to get to that point where it feels good to practice is going to be key. He knows how to feel heading into it. Last week was a good indication where it did not feel well enough. Hopefully this extra time will really help him and give him a shot to play."