Sam Darnold (mono) is chomping at the bit to get back in the huddle this Sunday when the winless New York Jets (0-3) face the host Philadelphia Eagles (2-2).
The quarterback has taken a majority of the first-team reps in practice since Wednesday in a non-contact capacity and believes he's headed in the right direction.
"Obviously the results are going to speak for themselves. The doctors are going to make that decision," Darnold said. "But I'm preparing and I'm practicing like I'm going to be the starter. I thought I've had a good couple days of practice, considering I've had a couple of weeks off. I thought I've been throwing it well. Timing has been good for the most part. Obviously some things I've got to work on but I think I've been doing alright."
However, while progress is being made and his sights are set on returning Sunday, Darnold is ultimately going to keep his priorities in order. If Darnold plays with an enlarged spleen, there's the chance it could rupture on a hit.
"It's a tough thing because you want to stay safe," Darnold said. "I want to make sure that I'm safe out there and that I'm not going to die."
The Jets organization and fans certainly echoes those sentiments as well.
Darnold will undergo an ultrasound for his spleen and blood tests on Friday to determine if he's able to play.
"It's good, I think," Darnold said of his spleen. "I don't really know. I'll leave it at that."
Jets coach Adam Gase says it'll be a collective evaluation to determine Darnold's status.
"It's not just going to be my decision," Gase said. "This is like Joe (Douglas), doctors, trainers, Sam, there's a lot of people, everybody has to check their box to say, "Yes, this is what we're doing."
Darnold is wearing special customized padding provided by X-Tech to protect his spleen, which he says is "good reinforcement". Darnold adds that his stamina isn't an issue.
"I feel really good," Darnold said. "During practice I've got a lot of energy. Everything is clicking for me. I'm seeing the plays."
Darnold and Luke Falk are the only quarterbacks on the active roster, which could signal a Darnold return against the Eagles.
However, if Darnold is still unable to go, the Jets will have to again turn to Falk. With Darnold sidelined the last two games, the Jets haven't scored an offensive touchdown.
While no one is placing that blame directly on Falk, the return of Darnold could provide a much-needed boost to the struggling Jets offense.
"It's always good to get your quarterback back in there. He's more happy to be out there with us, just competing and getting back on the same page," Jets running back Le'Veon Bell said. "I'm happy as hell that he's back."
Being away from the game has helped Darnold develop even more appreciation and gratitude for his profession. The competitor in him wants to take the field in Philadelphia but Darnold is at peace seeing the process to its full completion.
"For me, sitting back and watching the team play and not having anything to do with the win or the loss, it's not a good feeling for me," Darnold said. "If there's one thing that I've realized throughout this time sitting out is that it's a privilege to play this game. I'm just excited to get back out there whenever it is. For me, it's sooner rather than later is my mindset but I know that I've got to let the doctors do their job."