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Zach Wilson Opens Up About Jets' Quarterback Situation, Knee Injury

New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson opens up about his knee injury and how he can learn from the performance of backup quarterback Mike White in his place.

From the moment Zach Wilson was drafted by the Jets back in April, the young quarterback has been in the spotlight, regarded as not just New York's starter, but the future of the franchise. 

Then, as quickly as his name was called on draft night, Wilson found himself on the turf in New England, feeling discomfort in his right knee.

Wilson wound up with a sprained PCL, an injury that could've been much worse, but is still impacting him as he continues to recuperate and return to practice three weeks later. 

"Obviously, I would like to be back quicker. But I think for, as far as a knee injury, I think it’s probably a better one you could’ve hoped for as far as just being able to recover and get back," Wilson told reporters on Thursday. "I’m just trying to do everything I can in the training room to make it feel as good as I can."

That positive spin on his situation, a major obstacle midway through his rookie year, was a trend on Thursday as Wilson met with members of the media. 

In his absence, Wilson watched as backup quarterback Mike White etched his name into the history books with a remarkable and unforgettable performance in a win over the Bengals. Then, on Thursday Night Football, White continued to shine before he suffered a forearm injury, opening the door for third-string quarterback Josh Johnson to have a career game.

Wilson is still the future in New York. A two-to-four week injury and back-to-back promising performances from a backup won't change that. But this stretch has certainly been an unforeseen development in the first chapter of Wilson's NFL story, something that the rookie is handling with maturity beyond his years. 

"I handle it the only way I can. Controlling what I can control, doing what I can every day in practice," Wilson said. "I’d say the relationship me and Mike White have, I’m the closest with him than anyone on the team. We have a really good relationship, so I feel like I can take advantage of that opportunity, be able to learn from the reps that he’s going through and things that he’s seeing and doing. My time will come, I just have to work on getting healthy and taking my practice reps very seriously and how I just get back to the groove of playing."

Best friends in a quarterback room still grapple with the awkwardness of competing for playing time. Because at the end of the day, everyone wants to see the field, make an impact and get paid.

White has hit the ground running with his opportunity, garnering praise from teammates and coaches with Wilson out. And yet Wilson was one of the first people to text White during New York's upset over Cincinnati, cheering him on regardless of the possible implications of his own status on the team.

"That’s the coolest part is that I think we both understand that it’s part of the business of football. And we both understand that I want to play, he wants to play," Wilson said. "It’s just how it is. So, what’s the point of butting heads when we can help each other out? 

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"I think we can both benefit from the situation and so, I really don’t feel like there’s any reason to even have to talk about it. I feel like we’re naturally just really good friends as it is. And I was pumped for him when he plays, and he’s pumped for me when I’m playing and doing well."

Wilson can say all the right things, but in this league (and especially, in this market), he's not immune to additional questioning and speculation. 

Asked directly if he expects to regain the starting job when he's healthy again—something that isn't guaranteed based on the phrasing of head coach Robert Saleh over the last few weeks—Wilson assured that he's focused solely on getting healthy.

"I can’t even worry about that really, like what I said, I just go to practice every single day, learn from his reps, talk with those guys and just control what I can control."

In the meantime, Wilson—like members of the coaching staff—believes that watching other quarterbacks successfully operate this offense will be beneficial to his growth. Struggling at times during his first six games, Wilson could return with a new perspective on how to perform under center in green and white, the type of added confidence he needs to compliment his undeniable arm talent and playmaking ability.

"I would say it’s almost just as beneficial as playing," he explained. "Maybe you don’t feel it as much as far as just actually going through it, but we all think and see the same things. I understand why Mike made a certain decision on something that he did in a game or didn’t."

And what is it that White has been doing that's made him so successful lately? Wilson said it's been the backup's ability to take what the defense gives him, a part of playing quarterback where Wilson knows he needs to improve. 

"I would say my style of play needs to get more like that," Wilson admitted. "I need to be able to, it was the same thing in college. Maybe I forced things a little bit too much my freshman, sophomore year, but I found that balance my junior year. I found what risks were worth it and I was still able to still have those big explosive plays, but I took care of the ball. So, that’s kind of the same thing now. It’s like, okay, which one’s can I take the risk down the field and which one’s should I just give it to my backs and let those guys go make some plays."

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