With Sam Darnold preparing for his first start since being diagnosed with mononucleosis a month ago, a lot of his integration back onto the field will depend on his ability to trust.
He’ll have to trust his spleen has returned to normal size and he’s not in any more danger, trust the game plan and trust his teammates. Because although Darnold’s return poses a heap of optimism for the Jets offense, it’ll be up to those around him to make his return worthwhile.
“I’m not worried about [how dangerous playing quarterback is after being sick],” Darnold said Thursday following practice. “When I’m out there playing, I’m not worried about guys hitting me or anything. I’m trusting the guys up front to do their things and I’m trusting the receivers to go out and get open when it’s time to pass the ball.
“For me, it’s all about trust. When I do get hit I know that I’m not in danger anymore, they’re letting me go out there and play because it’s safe. So, I’m not worried about that.”
The 22-year-old quarterback was able to get light conditioning in while recovering and was able to practice in a no-contact jersey last week to begin knocking the rust off. He was optimistic he would be activated for Week 5 against the Eagles, but tests didn’t come back the way the team had hoped.
But now he’ll be back in the mix Sunday, when the Cowboys come to MetLife Stadium, as the Jets look for him to pump some life back into their 0-4 season.
“I don’t know what that would’ve been like if he got to play last week and said ‘Hey, I’m going to try to do too much and impress,’ ” offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. “We’ve had another week to talk to him about, ‘Hey, you’ve got to trust your coaching, you’ve got to trust your teammates and you have to trust your process and trust your reads. Play the game that way and also be creative. Put your spin on the game plan and use your creativity and your ability to get outside the pocket.’ ”
Loggains said Darnold isn’t going to be the “magic wand” for the Jets, but he will “lift the execution of this team.” The coaching staff has made the necessary adjustments to put Darnold in the best position to succeed, but the second-year quarterback is just focusing on what makes him good.
“I think [Loggains is] right,” Darnold said. “We’ve got to figure out what we need to clean up, the details on a lot of stuff that we’re doing. Hopefully, I can go out there and do my thing, throw the ball where it needs to be thrown, be able to check the ball down if I had to and go make plays when it’s necessary to do that.
“I’m just going to go out there and continue to play football the way I play. But also stay within the offense and stay within myself.”
Darnold believes the extra handful of practices the last week will help him in the long run. But he’s expecting his first couple of series on the field to be “a little bit of a shock to the system.”
He’ll continue to wear a protective pad around his midsection during practice and games. Darnold said he doesn’t feel restricted at all by it and plans to wear it the rest of the season.
“I think I’m going to be ready and hopefully after those [first] couple of series, I’ll feel right at home,” Darnold said.