NEW YORK (AP) — Sam Darnold could be getting closer to returning to the huddle.
The New York Jets quarterback was limited in practice Wednesday, but there's optimism Darnold's injured right shoulder might be healed in time to play against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday at home.
“We're taking this day by day,” coach Adam Gase said. “We'll see how today goes. Hoping for things to go smooth and he feels good. Things are trending in the right direction, but we're going to take this one day at a time.”
Darnold missed the past two games with the injury and has been on a throwing interval program since last week. The 23-year-old quarterback said Monday that his arm feels good, but would see how things progressed during practice this week.
“We're going in there thinking that he's going to be able to do quite a bit,” Gase said of Darnold's expected workload Wednesday. “We'll eliminate any kind of unnecessary throwing. Sometimes in special teams periods and things like that, a lot of throws are made. In those periods, we'll really limit those.”
Gase said Darnold would toss most of his passes during individual drills or team periods. Joe Flacco, who started the past two games, said after practice he just took scout team snaps — another positive sign for Darnold.
“He looked good,” Flacco said of Darnold. “He was running around out there, throwing the ball well, his arm was live. I mean, that’s really most of what you can gather out there today. But the ball looked like it was spinning and coming at guys, so I thought he looked really good.”
Darnold was initially injured against Denver on Oct. 1, when his shoulder took the brunt of the impact when he was thrown to the turf. He sprained the AC joint in the shoulder, but stayed in the game before being sidelined for two contests. He reinjured it at Kansas City on Nov. 1 when he took another hard hit, but also finished that game.
Both the coach and quarterback spoke Monday about how the main concern is whether the shoulder will be able to handle contact. And, Gase acknowledged that's not an easy thing to determine.
“I'm asking those same questions,” Gase said, adding that he has been talking about that with Darnold, general manager Joe Douglas and the trainers. "For us as a coaching staff, it's kind of like, how will we really know? Sometimes in this league, it's more about — I'm not worried about structural damage or something like that. It's just whether or not how bad it's going to be. Like, is he going to be able to recover if he gets hit and gets driven to the ground? Is that pain going to be so much where he can't go anymore (in the game)?
“That's the last thing you want to have happen, his first series of the game, that happens and now we have an issue.”
Gase said if Darnold is cleared to play this week for the 0-10 Jets, there are things the coaching staff could do to limit the possibility of contact. That would include certain play calls, such as lead QB draws or sneaks, that might expose him to big hits.
“At the same time, we've got to let him play the way he's accustomed to playing,” Gase said. “His biggest thing to protect himself is when he gets into those positions outside the pocket, it might be a throwaway instead of trying to do something crazy and extend the play to the point of where he's putting himself in harm's way."
Flacco has started in the four games Darnold has missed this season, including the past two in which the 35-year-old veteran has thrown for 467 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. The Jets’ offense has also performed more consistently than it had for most of this season with Flacco.
But, Flacco is 0-4 — and the team is 0-10, so Darnold's return could perhaps provide a needed spark.
“We’ve just got to keep talking through it,” Gase said. “We’ve got to see how he feels. Hopefully when we go out today, he feels really good throwing it around and we’ll keep talking through this.”
NOTES: RT George Fant (knee/ankle) did not practice. ... WR Breshad Perriman (shoulder), TE Chris Herndon (back), OL Chuma Edoga (ankle) and LBs Blake Cashman (hamstrings) and Patrick Onwuasor (hamstring) were all limited.
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