FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) The New York Jets are going to play it by ear with Ryan Fitzpatrick's thumb.
Coach Todd Bowles remained optimistic Monday that the quarterback will play Sunday after Fitzpatrick had surgery on his left thumb last week. But he wants to monitor how - and if - Fitzpatrick practices during the week leading up to the game against the Texans in Houston.
''We'll see,'' Bowles said when asked if Fitzpatrick would be able to practice Wednesday. ''I'm hopeful that he will be. He had the day off, he'll be off tomorrow, so we'll see on Wednesday how he feels.''
Fitzpatrick had a torn ligament in his non-throwing hand repaired last Friday, a day after New York's 22-17 loss to Buffalo. Bowles insisted that Fitzpatrick must be able to practice at some point this week to play.
''I have to see how he heals and how he takes snaps,'' the coach said. ''It would be unfair for me to say he's going to be fine. I'm not a doctor.''
If Fitzpatrick is unable to play, Geno Smith would start in his place. Fitzpatrick was injured at Oakland on Nov. 1, but was able to play through it against Jacksonville and Buffalo while wearing a padded and molded brace on his thumb, with his hand covered by a glove.
He didn't appear to be hindered by the injury during those games, handling the football fine, throwing for 465 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions, one of which was bobbled by Brandon Marshall directly to a defensive back. The injury itself will take several weeks to fully heal, but the quarterback will continue to wear the protective coverings on his hand. That has Bowles under the impression, at the moment, that Fitzpatrick should be able to play.
''That's what they conveyed to me,'' Bowles said. ''We have to see about his pain level. We have to see if there's any difference in the way he took handoffs last week and the way he's taking them this week.''
Fitzpatrick said last week he had two options for the surgery, last Friday or after the season. One of the considerations was, he was told, the ligament could start to shrink the longer he puts it off, making the procedure more complicated.
The Jets also have nine days between games, giving Fitzpatrick extra time to have the stitched-up wound heal. Bowles did acknowledge his staff considered resting Fitzpatrick for the entire week and holding him out against Houston.
''It was a thought, but it wasn't a serious thought,'' Bowles said. ''Everything that was conveyed to us was that he would probably be able to play if everything went well. Everything went well. But again, you have to wait until Wednesday to see what his pain tolerance is.''
Smith was slated to be the starter this season until his jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali during training camp. Fitzpatrick assumed the role and has provided a calming presence for the offense.
He has thrown for 1,983 yards with 15 touchdowns - the most by a Jets quarterback since Mark Sanchez had 26 in 2011 - and nine interceptions. Smith threw for 265 yards with two TDs and an interception in mop-up duty against the Raiders, the only action he has seen this season.
Bowles remains confident Smith can perform well if he needs to play Sunday.
''I'm fine with him starting,'' Bowles said of Smith. ''He's made great progress. He's learned a lot under Ryan. He threw the ball well in Oakland, for the most part. So, if he has to play, we'll just keep on moving.''
NOTES: WR Quincy Enunwa was reinstated after serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy. The Jets have a roster exemption, meaning they have to make a move by the end of the week to make room for Enunwa. RB Zac Stacy is expected to be placed on season-ending IR after breaking his left ankle against Buffalo. ... DL Sheldon Richardson has a sore hamstring. ... Bowles said CB Antonio Cromartie is ''doing a lot better than he was last week'' while dealing with a deep bruise in his left thigh. He was inactive against Buffalo. ... S Calvin Pryor declared that he's ''sure I'll be playing'' Sunday after missing three games with a high ankle sprain. ... Bowles said he spoke to Smith about an incident in which he allegedly used a vulgarity toward a reporter after the game last Thursday. ''From what I heard, I don't think it was anything disrespectful and that he didn't fire back,'' Bowles said. ''It was no big deal, it was a passing shot. ... I don't think he's a bad guy.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL