FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sam Darnold stood on the sidelines with his arms folded, unable to practice with his teammates because his right foot was in a walking boot. Later, Darnold limped in and out of the Jets’ locker room, putting his availability for Sunday’s game in serious doubt.
Todd Bowles announced Darnold has a strained foot. He said the rookie quarterback is day-to-day and wouldn’t rule him out for Sunday’s game against the Bills. But unless Darnold heals very quickly, it’s likely he won’t play.
It’s the Jets’ last game before their bye week, so it would give Darnold additional time to rest. He said the plan is to be cautious, and Bowles said the bye could factor in the decision.
“We don’t want to rush things,” Darnold said Wednesday. “That’s one thing we don’t want to do. I’m eager to get back out there on the field with my guys, but at the same time I got to take care of my body first and foremost.”
Last year’s starter, Josh McCown, is on deck to reprise that role Sunday if Darnold can’t go. Former Giant Davis Webb would be promoted from the practice squad to be the No. 2 quarterback.
“When you’re in a backup role, if you’re in position where you have to play, you just go in and do your job,” McCown said. “We’ll prepare like I do every week as if I’m a starter, go from there and get myself ready to go.”
Darnold got hurt in Sunday’s 13-6 loss at Miami, the Jets’ third straight defeat. After a sack late in the game he was limping, but he said he didn’t know exactly when the injury occurred. He finished the game, and afterward said he got “a little dinged up.” It was Darnold’s worst performance of his young NFL career. He threw four interceptions, including a pick-6.
On a conference call Monday, Darnold said he was fine. Bowles said he wasn’t aware that anything was bothering his franchise quarterback. Bowles said he was in meetings and hadn’t heard anything before Monday’s call with reporters. But things quickly changed.
“He got tests run,” Bowles said. “I guess it got worse.”
Reluctant to speak about the injury, Darnold said it didn’t get worse. But it was obvious something wasn’t right.
“I thought I was fine coming out of the game,” he said. “Went through some of the tests, something was a little different than usual. It’s just adversity. You just got to deal with it, get better as soon as possible, get back on the field as soon as possible.”
Darnold said he’s doing everything the trainers are telling him. He had a foot injury in high school that sidelined him for most of his junior season. He said it’s the same foot, but that the previous injury was “a little more severe.”
Asked whether Darnold could require surgery, Bowles said, “Not at this time. That’s not what I was told.”
Because Darnold is a rookie, Bowles said he would have to practice at some point to be able to play Sunday.
The Jets would be smart to take a conservative approach with Darnold. He’s the player the franchise is building around, and this season is starting to twist away as so many have for the Jets (3-6). Time off could be good for him mentally as well as physically. He struggled in his last three games, throwing seven interceptions and just two touchdown passes. He leads the NFL with 14 interceptions.
Darnold said he doesn’t believe his development would be stalled if he didn’t play this week.
“I want to go out there and play,” he said. “Hopefully, if I’m able to go out there Sunday, I will. If not, I’m just going to treat it as another learning experience. When adversity hits, it’s up to me how to respond. That’s what I need to worry about.”
It appears unlikely the rookie quarterback will play Sunday, which would mean Josh McCown starts.