FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sam Darnold is practicing and preparing as if he will play Sunday, but he’s not going to put his life on the line.
Less than a month after being diagnosed with mononucleosis, Darnold will undergo an ultrasound on his spleen and some blood tests Friday. The Jets quarterback is pushing to play and believes he is ready, but he knows he needs to hear that his enlarged spleen has decreased in size and that there is no risk involved in taking the field against the Eagles.
“It’s a tough thing because you want to stay safe,” Darnold said Thursday. “I want to make sure that I’m safe out there and that I’m not going to die. That’s one thing. But for me, watching the team play and not having anything to do with the win or the loss is not a good feeling for me.”
Darnold has not yet been cleared for contact or to lift weights. He began throwing Monday, but he said he feels fine after two full days of practice, that he’s not winded and that his timing is coming back.
By all accounts, he will play if the test results are good. If they’re not, Luke Falk will get his second consecutive start. But Darnold has taken most, if not all, of the first-team reps during team drills during the last two practices. The Jets haven’t signed a backup quarterback, an indication that they’re optimistic that he will be cleared.
“Right now I’m preparing and I’m practicing like I’m going to be the starter,” Darnold said. “I’ve had a couple of good days of practice considering I’ve had a couple weeks off. I think I’ve been throwing it well. I feel really good. During practice, I have a lot of energy. Everything’s clicking for me. I’m seeing the plays. Everything’s good so far.
“I feel like I’m good enough to play. My energy’s great. I’m having fun out there, having a good time in the huddle, breaking the huddle, just playing football. It’s good to be back from that standpoint. I feel like I’m good to go. But there’s some things that need to get cleared before that happens.”
Adam Gase said Darnold has looked good and that it appears he “bounced back quick.” It’s clear Gase wants his quarterback to play, but he continues to say it will be a group decision.
Gase, general manager Joe Douglas, the doctors and Darnold will have input as to whether he plays. Gase said everyone is monitoring Darnold, and to this point they don’t see anything concerning.
“There’s a lot of communication going on,” Gase said. “It’s constant. We’re checking with him, ‘How do you feel? Are you tired? What’s your conditioning like?’ We keep talking to him. We keep watching him. You could tell when a guy gets really exhausted to the point where throws can look different. You would see fatigue. We didn’t see that.”
The Jets’ offense has looked sickly and could use the emotional and physical lift that Darnold could provide. If he can play, he will wear custom-made padding that protects his spleen. He trusts that if he’s cleared by the doctors, there won’t be a danger of facing serious injury related to his condition.
“Football is a crazy game,” Darnold said. “But at the same time, I want to make sure that I’m safe first and foremost. That’s the doctor’s mindset. The doctor wants to make sure that I’m as safe as can be out there and risk of injury for me is just as high as anyone else and just as low as anyone else. I’m going to be cautious, but at the same time, I’m going to play just like I would if nothing happened.
“If there’s one thing I realized throughout this time sitting out, it’s that it’s a privilege to play this game. I’m just excited to get back out there whenever it is. For me sooner rather than later is my mindset. But I know that I got to let the doctors do their job.”