FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sam Darnold was back at practice Wednesday, testing out his sprained right shoulder during team drills.
Darnold was a limited participant, but if all goes well he has a chance to return Sunday when the winless Jets host Buffalo at MetLife Stadium.
"Right now, I would just say all options are available," coach Adam Gase said during a Zoom call. "The biggest thing is going to be how is he going to feel tomorrow. We just want to make sure if there’s anything that really feels like it lingers when he’s throwing, that’s his red flag of, ‘I’ve got to let you guys know.’"
Darnold has missed the past two games after spraining the AC joint in his throwing shoulder in the Jets’ Week 4 loss to Broncos. He was driven into the ground on a sack by linebacker Alexander Johnson. Darnold left the game for four offensive snaps and then returned and closed it out. But the pain got worse the next day.
Everyone involved believed the best course of action would be for the third-year quarterback to take some time off. Joe Flacco has played the last two games and would start again this week if Darnold can’t go.
"You give the priority to Sam in terms of the [practice] reps and things like that," Flacco said. "I just got to stay mentally locked in and make sure that I’m going through as much of the week as I can and be ready to play."
The Jets (0-6) are the NFL’s only winless team and could end up with the worst record in the league. If they do, odds are they will take Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the No. 1 pick. That would mean Darnold could be playing his final games as a Jet.
Darnold hasn’t shown enough to convince people he is the franchise quarterback that can lead the Jets to a Super Bowl. He’s 11-19 as a starter, including 0-4 this season. But Gase said it’s not fair to fully judge Darnold because of all the injuries at the skill positions.
The starting receivers corps of Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and rookie Denzel Mims hasn't played one game. That could change this week. Mims is closer to making his NFL debut. But Crowder was a surprise addition to Wednesday's injury report. He was limited with a groin injury.
"I look at it as: How many games has he had with the group we put together to start the season?" Gase said.
Gase brought up the Jets’ Week 2 loss against San Francisco when they were without Crowder and Mims. They lost Perriman in the first half and later Chris Hogan, and were playing with two receivers.
"There were some games where it was almost unfair to judge him," Gase said. "Some of these games have been hard to really put on him and evaluate him because it’s survival mode because of what’s going on injury-wise."
Gase defended Darnold again when it was suggested that in Year 3, he should be able to overcome injuries to the players around him.
"He has in a lot of aspects," Gase said. "I do think at some point though you’d like to have the three dudes that you plan on having out there. That’s fair to ask of the guy so that he can see what it looks like when he has all three of his starters out there."
If Darnold plays, he might have those three "dudes" out there with him Sunday, especially if Mims continues to progress in practice.
The second-round pick out of Baylor has been sidelined with injuries to both hamstrings. Last week, Mims went through team periods of practice for the first time. But he worked with the scout team. This week, he’s working with the Jets’ offense.
"I think we got a chance," Gase said, "as long as we don’t have any setbacks and nothing happens injury-wise."
Gase hopes finally having Mims and involving rookie running back La’Mical Perine more could give this offense a much-needed spark.
"Let’s get these guys in there and let’s see what they can do," Gase said. "Let’s give them the ball. Let’s see if some of these young guys can make some explosive plays."