FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Josh McCown called himself the opening act – “three songs...and one of them is a cover,” he joked – and Teddy Bridgewater dubbed himself the undercard. And though there was an impish joviality to their tones their comments also held a whole lot of truth.
McCown is still the No. 1 quarterback. Bridgewater is still No. 2. But all anyone is interested in these days is No. 3, who could have the fate of his franchise in his hands and, based on his comments Wednesday, is gunning to take the reins as soon as he can.
“The competitor in me - yeah, I want to start,” said Sam Darnold, who was making his first comments since the beginning of training camp. “With Josh and Teddy, it’s a huge challenge [to earn the Week 1 start], but at the end of the day, they know it’s the coach’s decision so I’m just going to come out here and practice and control what I can control. I’m going to do what I can to possibly earn that start, but at the same time, continue to get better every single day. I think that’s what it’s about.”
It was a mixed, though overall positive second day of practice for Darnold, who didn't join the Jets until Monday because of a contract dispute. He had some hiccups – an interception to Morris Claiborne during team drills, a few misreads, and failing to get a first down during the two-minute drill. And he showed some flashes of his talent. He immediately bounced back from that pick with a long completion to Chad Hansen, and kept his left hand on the ball when he was rolling out (at USC, he had the bad habit of placing that hand on his hip when he was under pressure).
“He learns from his mistakes,” Todd Bowles said. “He’s a good study and he’s a hard worker and he’s mentally tough so he grasps the situation and he moves on to the next play pretty good…[The situation] is not too big for him at all, but he’s got a lot of learning and work to do, so he’s putting his head down and working and we’ll go from there.”
And though Darnold said he’s happy with his contract and it's clear he was glad the issue was resolved after only three missed practices. He was staying at the Archer Hotel the whole time – about a five-minute walk from the facility at 1 Jets Drive – conditioning at the fitness center there, and watching practice on an iPad. When he finally stepped on the field Monday, he was greeted with a slow clap – which Bowles and a few teammates later revealed was a way to rib him for his tardiness. All Darnold felt, though, was relief.
“That was awesome, to be able to be part of that,” he said. “It kind of pushed – me not showing up to camp on time and being late – it kind of pushed all that to the side. It made me feel comfortable. It made me feel part of the team.”
And it also introduced him to the competition that will no doubt shape so much of this training camp. McCown and Bridgewater have both worked with and spoken extensively with the rookie, and the ensuing relationship has taken the awkwardness out of the QB room, Darnold said.
“Competition is awesome,” he said. “I think it pushes other guys on this team, when they’re seeing a vet like Josh, a vet like Teddy, and me coming and competing really hard, I think it [affects] everyone. There’s guys in other positions that are competing for jobs as well and it’s just really awesome to be in this competitive environment and just compete, especially here in camp. Once guys' legs start to get a little tired, I think competition pushes us to be even better.”
Spoken like a man who has every intention to win.