Sam Darnold has been cleared for non-contact work, but it’s unclear if he will be given the green light to play when the Jets return from their bye week to face the Eagles on Sunday.
Darnold, recovering from a bout of mononucleosis, believes he can play right now. There are obvious risks, though, particularly his enlarged spleen. Coach Adam Gase said everything will be considered, but ultimately the Jets’ organization and the doctors will make the final decision about Darnold’s status this week.
“He’s pressing to play,” Gase said during a Monday afternoon conference call. “He wants to be out there. Him sitting out the last few weeks is something that’s not ideal for him. It’s about making the right decision for us as an organization. It’s going to be Joe [Douglas, the general manager], myself, the trainers, the doctors getting together and saying here’s what we’re going to do and here’s the right decision we’re going to make not only for him but for our team.”
Darnold, who missed the past two games, had been circling Week 5 as his return date. After meeting with doctors Monday, he was cleared to throw a football for the first time, but he still can’t lift weights. He didn’t get full clearance to return to practice Wednesday, a decision that he and the 0-3 Jets seemed to be expecting.
To this point, Darnold said he’s been riding the bike, which is much different from being hit by 300-plus-pound linemen. Still, Darnold said he feels 100% healthy and believes he can resume playing.
“I feel like I can play right now,” he said.
His spleen would seem to remain an issue, but for the first time during this process, Darnold would not talk about it.
“My spleen at this point is going to do what it’s going to do,” he said. “I’m going to let the specifics come out when they do. Until then, I’m going to do what the doctors say.”
Gase said he hasn’t spoken to the doctors yet, so he’s not sure if there could be a point later this week when Darnold could be cleared. Gase said this is “not ideal” from a preparation standpoint.
He said everyone “felt good” when they left for the bye about Luke Falk being the backup. But if Darnold can’t play, Falk would start for the second consecutive week and the Jets would have to sign a backup.
They could bring back David Fales, who served in that role during the Jets’ Week 3 loss at New England. The fact that they cut Fales was an indication that they thought Darnold would play this week.
“It’s not an ideal situation,” Gase said. “It would be one thing if you’re looking at a [backup] that’s played in the league 12 years or something that could go a whole week and all of a sudden we get the rug pulled out from under us. But this is more of a situation when you have a younger backup, and if he was going to play, he would need the reps.
“It’s one of those things where the sooner the better to have an answer. Right now it is what it is. I have to keep preparing with the possibility of Sam going and then the possibility that Luke might have to go.”
Darnold said his goal is to be able to practice Wednesday and get a full week of work in before the Jets make the trip to Philadelphia on Saturday. It doesn’t sound as if that will be the case, but he said that as long as he gets cleared, he wants to play no matter how much he practices this week.
“I feel 100 percent,” Darnold said. “I’ve been feeling 100 percent for a week now. That’s the most frustrating part about this. It’s what makes me the most anxious is feeling 100 percent
but not necessarily being able to go out there and do what I love to do. I got to do what I can to get back out there and get healthy and do what the docs say.
“I’m going to do what I can to get out there with my guys because I miss the game too much. That’s how I am. If I can go out there and play, I’m going to play.”