Sam Darnold doesn’t live under a rock. He’s seen and heard all the speculation about the Jets putting themselves in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
Maybe Darnold lets it affect him privately. But publicly Darnold shrugged it off.
"We’re just worried about getting a win," Darnold said during a Zoom call Thursday. "We got to worry about this week. Buffalo, they’re a really good team. We’re worried about this week. That’s all we’re worried about right now."
The Jets are 0-6. They’re the only winless team in the NFL and every loss puts them one step closer to getting that first pick in the draft. Everyone, including Jets legend Joe Namath, considers it a no-brainer for the Jets to take Lawrence if they hold the No. 1 pick.
That would be general manager Joe Douglas’ decision, as well as what to do with Darnold if it worked out that way. He could get the Jets additional draft capital that would really help them build a winning team.
"I have social media," Darnold said. "I’ve seen some of the things. We got a game to win this week. That’s all we’re worried about."
Things have not gone as anyone expected when the Jets used the No. 3 pick on Darnold in 2018.
They are careening toward the worst record in franchise history. Now there’s talk of the Jets moving on from whom many believed was their franchise quarterback. Darnold’s focus remains the same.
"It’s out of my control," he said. "I’m here to do my best and help this team win games. That’s all I can do. With that it’s preparing every single day as hard as I can and going out to practice and trying to have the best practice I can. That’s all that I can do."
Darnold will have some say in whether the Jets finish 0-16 for the first time. One more good day of practice and he could be in line to return Sunday.
He has missed the last two games because of a sprained right shoulder. But he’s been limited in practice the past two days. Darnold is encouraged by his progress.
"I feel good," he said. "The last two days have gone really well. I’ve thrown the ball. I’ve recovered pretty quick. It’s still to be determined what’s going to happen Sunday. I’ve felt really good the last couple of days."
Douglas, Adam Gase and the trainers will sit down with Darnold this weekend and decide the best course of action. Darnold sprained the AC joint in his shoulder on Oct. 1 against Denver. If Darnold can’t play, veteran Joe Flacco will start for the third straight game.
Gase said Thursday’s practice would be a big step for Darnold. It involved situational aspects such as third downs, where the ball has to come out quickly and Darnold’s arm strength would be tested. Darnold said he held up fine.
"I thought it was a good day," Darnold said. "I thought my timing was good. There was a little bit of pain, but it’s nothing crazy. I feel like I’m capable of dealing with it."
The Jets are optimistic that Darnold will return and armed with the three starting receivers for the first time.
Rookie Denzel Mims could be activated from IR for Sunday’s game. He hasn’t played this year. Jamison Crowder is dealing with a groin issue that kept him out of practice Thursday. Before practice, Gase said Crowder would be limited, and he didn’t seem worried that it would keep him out Sunday. Breshad Perriman returned last week after missing three games with an ankle injury.
"Having those guys back, it’s great," Darnold said. "Just to have the whole squad back, it’s nice to be able to have those guys to throw to."
Gase said it’s not fair to judge Darnold until he plays with his full complement of weapons. Darnold has been steadfast in saying, it’s up to him to lead the Jets to victories no matter who’s he’s playing with, and he hasn’t done that.
"I don’t think I’ve played well enough to win," he said. "That’s just shooting it straight. We haven’t won any games yet. I haven’t played well enough."