New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is at team’s facility ready to take on the rigors of camp albeit not on the actual field just yet. It has been an unusual offseason, he admits, given the league’s unorthodox schedule due to COVID-19.
Darnold entered this offseason looking to capitalize on the second half of a 2019 season where he showed significant progress and development.
“I’m just living in an apartment by myself,” Darnold said on Tuesday via a conference call with the media. “Guys are going through different situations, but I'm very eager to get the season and training camp started.”
The difference with this press briefing is that Darnold was at the Jets facility as opposed to past chats from his residence. The Jets’ signal-caller is confident his teammates will take the protocols set forth by the NFL seriously.
Darnold explained his interactions with his teammates.
“Guys will just text me, you know, ‘Hey, what's up?’ I'll respond. ‘Hey, have you gotten your test yet?’ Cause I'm not going to see you if you haven't gotten your test,” Darnold said.
One idea that has been discussed by Jets officials is taking an extra quarterback and quarantining that player. In case an outbreak happens like it recently did with baseball’s Miami Marlins, where 17 players and staff tested positive, the Jets could potentially have a quarterback in case the traveling quarterbacks all tested positive. This extra quarterback would virtually learn the offense but stay away from the team and only be used in an emergency situation.
“We’ve talked about that quite a bit,” Jets head coach Adam Gase told the media on Tuesday in his own conference call. “We’re still trying to work through some of these things that will pop up and the best avenue to take. Once you start sticking traveling in there in the regular season, especially with us having some West Coast trips, we do have to keep talking through these types of things and figure out what the best thing to do if something happened that we’d have a really good answer for it. The good thing now is we do have time.”
The NFL and NFLPA agreed to a host of protocols for this unique training camp experience. Testing will take place every day. If after two weeks, the entire league has less than five percent positive tests, then it moves to every other day.
Unlike the NBA, WNBA, MLS, and NHL, the NFL is not benefitting from the isolation of a “bubble.” Players in those sports are literally living outside of the real world. NFL players are different in that they go to their separate homes and live different lives.
“Coaches can tell us all day not to go out, but at the end of the day, it really comes from the players and the leaders in the locker room,” Darnold said. “I think it’s just going to be on us to be able to have the patience too if some friends are in the city, and I want to go out to the city, I’m just going to have to say 'No.' And it’s just the way of the world. There’s a new norm now.”
Darnold is excited about the new additions to the offensive line and receiving corps and is hopeful that the pandemic doesn’t hinder both his development and the team’s progress.
“I've been going around the building,” Darnold said. “I haven't been shaking hands. I've been dropping elbows. You go about your life in a completely different way right now. I guess we're just all going to have to get used to it.”