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December 18, 2018

Mehta: Sitting Jets QB Sam Darnold is right thing to do to keep eyes on the prize

November 8, 2018

Josh McCown has battered and bruised nearly every limb on his 39-year-old body, so this pearl of wisdom in the wake of Sam Darnold’s first notable injury shouldn’t be taken lightly: “You rather have two healthy feet than not.”

The Season of Sam will be suspended until further notice after we learned that the Jets rookie quarterback suffered a right foot strain at some unknown time during last week’s 13-6 loss in Miami.




Although Todd Bowles maintained that Darnold is “day-to-day” after missing practice Wednesday and “it’s too early” to declare him out against the division rivals, the Jets training staff would have to accelerate the healing process to warp speed for the kid to have any shot of playing this weekend. (Spoiler: It’s not happening).

Besides, it makes absolutely no sense to rush back your franchise quarterback in the midst of a 3-6 campaign that includes a Week 11 BYE.

Sam Darnold. (Cliff Hawkins / Getty Images)

The Daily News reported that Gang Green is hopeful that Darnold will be healthy in time for a Week 12 showdown against Bill Belichick’s Evil Empire at MetLife Stadium, but there are folks on One Jets Drive who aren’t overly optimistic that it will happen. They’re keeping their fingers crossed, while not losing sight of the bigger, more important picture.

“We don’t want to rush things,” said Darnold, who watched practice in a walking boot Wednesday. “That’s one thing we don’t want to do. Yeah, 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.”

Darnold can’t pinpoint when he got hurt other than it happened “in the midst of the action.” The injury shouldn’t be an excuse for his four-interception performance given that his mistakes are more a product of mental lapses and poor judgment.

Darnold said that he got “a lot of mental reps out there” on Wednesday, but mental reps aren’t enough for a guy with nine NFL games on his resumé to play the most pivotal position in team sports. He needs to practice.

“I want to go out there and play,” Darnold said. “If I’m able to go out there and play Sunday, I will. If not, I’m just going to treat it as another learning experience. Like I said before, when adversity hits, it’s up to me on how to respond. That’s all I need to worry about.”

Darnold has a strong constitution and a good head on his shoulders. My understanding is that the speed of the game has been a factor in recent weeks, but he’s never once even hinted that he needs to take a timeout and watch from the sidelines to re-calibrate. In fact, I’ve been told that the Jets had no thought whatsoever of benching Darnold unless he made it clear to the coaches that he needed a break.

(New York Daily News back page)

Anyone who’s been around the ultra-competitive Darnold knows that he wasn’t going to tap out. So, he was in line to start the rest of the season. He’ll rightfully return as the Jets starter when he’s fully healthy, according to people familiar with the situation.

“Obviously nobody wants to miss time and his process of growing,” McCown said. “But whatever the case is, I know he’ll be a pro not only getting his body ready to go, but also mentally keeping himself engaged and focused.”

McCown should make a relatively seamless transition back in the saddle given how well he played as Gang Green’s starter last season before suffering a season-ending broken thumb in Denver last December. (Practice squad quarterback and former Giant backup Davis Webb will be elevated to the active roster as the No. 2 quarterback against the Bills).

Although McCown conceded that he’s fresher this late in the season due to limited wear and tear, there’s a conditioning component that shouldn’t be entirely dismissed when discussing a guy who hasn’t taken any snaps since the preseason finale on August 30. To that end, I was told that McCown ran gassers on his own between drills/segments at practice on Wednesday.

In the meantime, rest will be the best medicine for Darnold, who broke his left foot as a junior in high school. Bowles said that he was told that Darnold did not suffer a Lisfranc injury, which would have almost certainly shelved him for the rest of the season. The coach doesn’t believe that Darnold’s injury will require surgery, either.

“I’ve been through it and it’s not fun,” McCown said of the foot strain that he suffered a while ago. “But you just take it day-to-day and you get treated. You never know.”




“It’s just sore,” McCown said of how a foot strain can impact a quarterback. “You can imagine every movement that a professional athlete has to do whether it’s quarterback or any position… You’d rather have two healthy feet than not. That’s just the bottom line. But it’s certainly manageable. And it’s one that you can manage day-to-day. That’s the course that we’ll take and I’ll be ready to go if called upon.”

Placing the pause button will certainly impact Darnold’s development. If he misses just one game, the impact will be minimal. It’s an altogether different story if he misses multiple games. Neither the team nor player has a definitive timetable for return.

But know this: When Sam Darnold is healthy, he’ll be under center again.

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