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Adam Gase expects Sam Darnold to play again this season for Jets

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase, right,

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase, right, talks to quarterback Sam Darnold (14) during the second half  against the San Francisco 49ers on Sept. 20, 2020. Credit: AP/Corey Sipkin

Sam Darnold has not thrown his last pass of the season, according to Adam Gase.

Darnold will miss his second straight game when the Jets play the Chargers on Sunday because of a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder. There has been speculation that Darnold may have played his last game of the season, and perhaps his Jets’ career. But Gase said Darnold will play again this year.

"I expect him to be back at some point," Gase said during a Zoom call on Wednesday. "I don’t know when it is. I talked to him yesterday. I think he’s feeling better. He’s getting stronger. I think we just want to make sure that he’s healthy when we get him out there."

Darnold has already missed three games this season because o the shoulder. He initially injured it on Oct 1 and re-aggravated it on Nov. 1. Earlier this week, Darnold said he doesn’t think it was a mistake to come back following a two-game absence. But Darnold said he won’t return until he’s 100%.

It’s the right approach all things considered. The Jets, back at work after their bye, are 0-9. There’s no need for Darnold to risk further injury or damage when his long-term future doesn’t appear to be with the Jets.

They are the only winless team in the league and could end up with one of the top two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. If they’re in position to take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields, the Jets likely will trade Darnold for more draft capital.

For now, Darnold is on a throwing program that the Jets training staff believes will help him get his arm strength back. Darnold isn’t the type to sit out if he’s healthy. He has said his "worst nightmare" is not playing when he’s physically able, no matter what his team’s record is.

That’s one of the reasons Gase sounds confident that Darnold will be on the field with the Jets again.

"Last week after watching his reaction when he wasn’t feeling right, I see him wanting to play," Gase said. "I see a guy that’s really trying to push to put himself in position to go out there on Sunday. Talking with the front office, coaching staff, Sam, trainers, doctors, we felt like this is the best thing to do for this week. Hopefully we’re closer to getting him healthy and being able to play here in the near future."

Joe Flacco will start again in Darnold’s place in a game that the Jets have a chance at winning.

The Chargers have been in some close, exciting games since rookie Justin Herbert became their starting quarterback. But they’re 1-7 in those games – with the losses coming by an average of 4.6 points.

The Jets looked like a capable offense in their last game, a last-second defeat to New England on Nov. 9. It was the first time all season the Jets had their three starting receivers together – Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims.

Flacco threw three touchdown passes – matching Darnold’s total for the season. Two of them were to Breshad Perriman, who was limited Wednesday with a shoulder issue But Gase sounded relatively optimistic about Perriman playing Sunday.

Given the team’s current state of affairs, Gase was asked why the Jets don’t just tell Darnold to sit out the rest of the season and get healthy for next year. Gase said no one wants that, especially Darnold.

"If I said that to him, I don’t know if that would go over very well. He wants to play," Gase said. "I’m not getting that feeling from him or anyone else that he shouldn’t play the rest of the year. We want him to get out there. His teammates want him to be out there.

"Everybody wants to see what it can look like when we have the starting receivers, starting offensive line and him out there. Let’s see what we can do when we get all those pieces out there."

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