New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the first half against...

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the first half against Kansas City on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

Sam Darnold’s sprained right shoulder hasn’t improved and will keep him sidelined. But it sounds as if the third-year Jets quarterback could miss more than just the upcoming game.

This is a troubling development. Darnold didn’t play in the Nov. 9 loss to New England, the Jets are coming off their bye and he still doesn’t feel right.

The Jets, the training staff, some outside sources and Darnold all agreed that his sprained AC joint needs more time to heal. Darnold said he wants to play but has to think of his long-term health, which was the first time he’s made direct reference to that.

"Me injuring my right shoulder, it’s definitely tough to kind of weigh all the options of what I can do," Darnold said on a conference call Monday. "You start thinking in terms of just longevity and how I can further injure the shoulder. I just think where we are right now with it, it’s a good decision to give it another week to let it heal up.

"I want to play, but I just got to weigh all the factors. After doing that, I thought it was the best decision not to play this week."

Joe Flacco will start Sunday against the Chargers (2-7) for the Jets (0-9).

Darnold will work with the trainers and has begun a throwing program that the Jets believe will help him get the strength back in his shoulder. Adam Gase said Darnold is "week to week" and that he’s not "making any predictions" on when he will play again.

With his long-term future with the team in doubt — especially if the Jets get one of the top two draft picks — there’s some question as to whether Darnold has played his last game in green and white. But Gase said the Jets aren’t considering putting him on injured reserve.

Darnold said he expects to return this season.

"I’m very confident that I’ll play this year," he said. "It’s making sure that when I do come back, I’m 100% so when I land on it or get hit, that it’s not getting reinjured."

Darnold initially injured his shoulder Oct. 1 against the Broncos. He missed the next two games and aggravated the injury against Kansas City on Nov. 1. He tried to practice before the Patriots game but didn’t feel right and let Gase and the trainers know.

An MRI didn’t reveal further damage, but the Jets got multiple opinions and Darnold spoke to people he trusts. The conclusion was for him to rest and rebuild the strength in the shoulder.

"We talked through it from trainers, doctors, people outside the building," Gase said. "This was consensus with all of us putting our input in. He’s on board with this program we got him going on."

Darnold agreed.

"The biggest thing right now is giving it time," he said. "With AC sprains, it’s something you just got to give time. That’s what I’m doing right now."

Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 draft, missed three games in each of the previous two seasons and will be sidelined for at least four this year.

He said he doesn’t think it was a mistake to come back against Kansas City. The only thing he regrets is not sliding while running with the ball. He could have avoided the hard hit.

"I think with everything that the doctors told me, I thought it was a good decision to come back," Darnold said. "I just need to let it heal."

This was supposed to be an important stretch for Darnold and the Jets. They’re evaluating everyone.

If the Jets are in position to draft Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, they likely will trade Darnold. The better he plays, the more general manager Joe Douglas can recoup for the player he has called a franchise quarterback.

Darnold hasn’t looked like one this season, throwing three touchdown passes and six interceptions in six games. But he has yet to play with starting receivers Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims in the same game. They were on the field for the first time together last week, but Darnold was a spectator.

"There’s been some really good things that he’s done," Gase said. "There’s some things that we want to get cleaned up. We really want to see him play with the starting wide receivers."

That remains on hold.

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