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Jets QB Sam Darnold ruled out for Sunday with sprained shoulder, Joe Flacco to start against Cardinals

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold celebrates after rushing for

Jets quarterback Sam Darnold celebrates after rushing for a touchdown during the first half of the team's NFL football game against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2020, in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: AP/Seth Wenig

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The pain in Sam Darnold’s sprained right shoulder has worsened and will keep him out of Sunday’s game against Arizona.

Veteran Joe Flacco will start at quarterback for the winless Jets.

"Just making sure we do the right thing by him not only in the immediate future but long term," Adam Gase said during a Zoom call on Wednesday. "He’s really going to be week-to-week right now. That was really what we were told by the doctors. Let’s see how he feels after this week of rest."

Darnold injured his shoulder in the first quarter of last Thursday’s loss to Denver. Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson sacked Darnold and drove him hard into the MetLife Stadium turf.

He left the game for only four offensive snaps, and ultimately finished the game. But Darnold woke up the next day in a lot of pain - and it hasn’t gotten better.

"On Tuesday," Darnold said, "it was rough."

The Jets doctors examined and evaluated Darnold, and the team sought second opinions, according to Gase. Darnold has a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, but Gase wouldn’t reveal what grade.

Darnold hoped he could play through it. But he met with the doctors and Gase on Tuesday. General manager Joe Douglas also was involved in the decision-making process. They concluded that the smart thing is for the Jets’ franchise quarterback to take a seat and let his shoulder heal.

"He’s in a lot of pain," Gase said.

It’s too soon for Darnold to know whether this is a one-week thing or not. But he hates missing games. Darnold plans to follow the doctors’ orders to minimize how long he’s out.

Darnold has yet to play a full NFL season since the Jets took him with the third overall pick in 2018.

As a rookie, Darnold missed three games with a foot injury. Last year, he had mononucleosis that kept him out of three games. Now it’s his shoulder.

"Not being able to practice sucked," Darnold said. "It’s not fun being hurt. All I want to do is go out there and play football with the guys. It’s not fun. But I’m definitely going to have a good mindset going into treatment and rehab, try to get healthy and stay on top of it as much as I can."

The Jets are 0-4 and now will rely on a former Super Bowl MVP to try and lead them to their first victory.

Flacco, 35, has started 171 games, and all but eight were with the Ravens. He was with the Broncos last year before suffering a season-ending neck injury.

The Jets signed Flacco in the offseason knowing he would be out the first few weeks after undergoing neck surgery. Last week was the first time he was active.

Flacco replaced Darnold for those four snaps, which was the first time he received play calls from Gase. Flacco completed both of his pass attempts for 16 yards.

"My adrenaline was definitely pumping last week when Sam went down for the few plays that I had to go in," Flacco said. "This week feels a lot more normal for me. That’s probably to my advantage a little bit

"I’m going to go out there and I’m going to play my best. I hope to get us going in the right direction. I’m not going to try to make too much of the situation and do more than I can."

Mike White, who is on the practice squad, will be Flacco’s backup on Sunday, Gase said.

Gase has been criticized for letting Darnold finish the game in his condition. But Darnold said the doctors’ told him he could return, and it wasn’t a mistake that he did.

"At the time, they told me I could go back in and play so I did," Darnold said. "I had adrenaline running. I was ready to go. I got hurt, and I wanted to go back out there and compete because I felt I could.

"It didn’t hurt any more after I went in. No, I don’t think it’s a mistake at all."

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