FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zach Wilson returned to the New York Jets' facility Thursday, eager to begin rehabilitation on his surgically repaired right knee.
The second-year quarterback had arthroscopic surgery Tuesday in Los Angeles to repair a torn meniscus. He also has a bone bruise in the knee and is expected to be sidelined the next few weeks as he recovers.
“Zach flew back last night and he’s here today,” coach Robert Saleh said. “He’s already walking. He’s in really good spirits. And he’s champing at the bit to get to rehab.”
The Jets haven't ruled out the possibility Wilson could be ready to play in the regular-season opener against Baltimore on Sept. 11. But New York also will not rush back the quarterback, which means Joe Flacco could start a few games.
“It’s really going to dictate on how he feels and when he’s ready to go,” Saleh said. “We’re going to make sure we do right by him in terms of making sure that he’s 100% healthy. Whenever that is, that’s when he’ll hit the field.”
The Jets initially feared Wilson suffered a serious — and potentially season-ending — knee injury during the second offensive series of New York’s 24-21 preseason-opening win at Philadelphia last Friday. Tests indicated the ACL in the knee was intact, and an MRI the next morning revealed the bone bruise and torn meniscus.
Wilson flew to Los Angeles for the surgery, performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The Jets remained cautiously optimistic but had to wait for ElAttrache to see inside the knee and discover there was no additional damage, according to a person with knowledge of the procedure. Wilson had the meniscus trimmed and didn't need a full repair — which would have sidelined him for several weeks and possibly months.
“I’m not thinking about the team, I’m not thinking about me,” Saleh said. "It’s about him. And any player that gets hurt where you feel like there’s worry that their season might be over, I’m not in a selfish moment at that point. I don’t think anyone is. It’s all about him.
“And so when you get that news, you’re thankful and glad for him because you know that he still has a chance to accomplish all the different things that he’s been trying to accomplish since the season ended last year.”
Wilson was initially expected to be sidelined two to four weeks, and the surgery didn't necessarily change that timeline. But he'll miss the last two preseason games and could need some time to practice and sharpen his skills — and feel confident in his knee, the same one that sidelined him for four games last season because of a sprained PCL.
“If Zach is ready to play, he’s going to be the Week 1 starter,” Saleh said. “If he’s not, Joe will. That’s no secret.”
In the meantime, Wilson will stay on top of the playbook and game plans as much as he can until he can actually practice — and play — again.
“I mean, the show goes on, right?” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “For him, it's making the most of this situation. Obviously, he wants to be out on the field, but he can’t be right now. He’s got to get healthy. And we’ve been through this thing before. You know, he’s going to bust his butt in the classroom, he’s going to bust his butt in everything he’s going to do to get out there because he wants to be out there.”
NOTES: Former defensive lineman Joe Klecko, selected Wednesday as one of three senior candidate finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, said he “never knew your phone could catch fire” when joking about how many texts and calls he has received the past few days. “The announcement of it from the Hall itself was, without a doubt, probably one of the most exhilarating things,” said Klecko, who watched practice Thursday from the sideline. “My wife and I were the only two people at home at the time, and my wife being a very reserved lady, I've never seen her jump up and down. So it was kind of cool.” Klecko, Ken Riley and Chuck Howley will get into the Hall if they are supported by at least 80% of voters next January. ... CB D.J. Reed was a full participant in team drills after being sidelined several days with a hamstring injury. ... LT Duane Brown did positional drills but not team drills. Saleh said that could happen this weekend when the Jets host the Atlanta Falcons for a pair of joint practices leading up to their preseason game Monday night.
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