As the Jets allowed their first win of the season slip away on Monday night, Sam Darnold looked on from the sideline. Just like New York's record this season, the Jets are now 0-9 in games without Darnold since his debut in 2018.
The starting quarterback missed his third game of the year with a right shoulder injury, a preexisting condition he aggravated on Nov. 1 against the Chiefs. Now, heading into Week 10, Darnold is still working his way back to his return to action.
"I think it's still a day-to-day process for me right now," Darnold told reporters on a conference call Tuesday afternoon. "Just making sure I do everything to get healthy and ready to go as soon as possible."
Entering New York's bye week, the 23-year-old has some extra time to recuperate before his club's next game. Even with 12 days separating Darnold and the Jets from their next game day, however, nobody is making any guarantees that the quarterback will be ready to go.
"He's focused on trying to play this next game," Gase said Tuesday. "I'm not really sure where that will end up, but I know that he's doing everything he can to try and make himself available."
Scrambling against the Chiefs two weeks ago, Darnold was sandwiched between two Kansas City defenders. An MRI revealed no further damage to the sprained AC joint he had sustained on Oct. 1.
Nonetheless, soreness persisted throughout this past week and after Darnold articulated to the coaching staff he wasn't feeling right in practice, veteran Joe Flacco was called upon to start against New England.
Darnold confirmed that he's been feeling better with one week of rest under his belt. In an interview with The Michael Kay Show on Tuesday, Darnold mentioned that after hearing from several different doctors, surgery in his right shoulder is presently "not on the table."
"It's getting better every day, so just gonna continue to treat it and make sure I do everything that I need to do every single day to make sure that it feels right and it continues on the right process," Darnold said on the conference call with reporters.
For now, Darnold and the Jets haven't figured out a precise throwing regimen for the quarterback yet. As time passes, and he continues to keep the Jets medical staff posted on how his shoulder feels, the first-rounder will slowly begin to build back up throwing the football.
That doesn't make this injury any easier as not being able to play has been eating away at the former USC standout. Just last week, he called missing games due to injury his "worst nightmare."
Flacco, who has dealt with his own fair share of injuries over his 13-year career, explained that Darnold has to balance the drive to be out there helping his team while considering his long term future.
"He's a young kid that has a lot of talent that has a lot ahead of them," Flacco told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday. "He definitely has to be smart with this, make sure he makes the right decision in terms of staying patient and not feeling like he's got to be itching to get back out there. I mean, the problem is us as football players, you always want to get back out there and lead your guys. So he's dealing with that battle, but you need to listen to people from the outside and hopefully he listens to everybody, listens to myself and stays as patient as he has to on this one."
That in mind, it comes as no surprise to hear that Darnold's focus is getting back out there with his teammates as soon as possible. It doesn't matter what this team's record is or what point of the season his team is in. Getting back on the field and being healthy is all he's thinking about.
"I think, for me personally, it's just about going out there and playing ball with my guys and with my teammates so that's really all I'm thinking about is trying to get on the field as quickly as possible, but at the same time being smart about it," Darnold said.