FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sam Darnold was back on the field, breaking down the pre-practice huddle and tossing passes while looking as though he hadn’t missed a beat.
The New York Jets and their quarterback still need to wait before they know if he can play in a game.
Darnold practiced Wednesday for the first time since being diagnosed with mononucleosis three weeks ago. He still hasn’t been cleared for physical contact or lifting weights, leaving his availability for New York’s game at Philadelphia on Sunday uncertain.
“I like our odds better than what they’ve been,” coach Adam Gase said. “Last week, if we would have been playing a game, I would have said it was really low. I like the fact that things have looked and progressed in the right direction. ... There’s just some gray there still.”
Darnold was listed as a limited participant at practice, but wide receivers Robby Anderson and Jamison Crowder both gave the quarterback positive reviews.
“He looked good,” Anderson said. “He looked comfortable. To me, I didn't feel like he was away.”
Added Crowder: “He’s been out three or four weeks, but first day back, coming off the bye week, I thought today was really good.”
Gase said Darnold will have additional tests Friday and the team will lean on the doctors to determine what the quarterback can do physically. The size of the quarterback’s spleen is being monitored. Swelling of the organ is a common symptom of mononucleosis. Damage to the spleen, including a rupture, is a serious — and, in some cases, life-threatening — situation, so the Jets and Darnold are being cautious.
Darnold was wearing a red no-contact jersey during practice, a common sight around NFL camps for quarterbacks. But, Gase doesn’t normally have his QBs wear them.
“No one’s going to touch him today,” Gase said. “I can promise you that.”
Gase acknowledged that the Jets could go as far as Sunday morning before determining whether Darnold will play against the Eagles or Luke Falk will make his second straight start. Falk will also get snaps during team drills this week.
“You’ve got to get the physical reps after practice with the guys and you’ve got to be locked in mentally when (Darnold) is getting his reps with the 1s,” Falk said. “You’ve got to be ready to roll.”
The team’s only other healthy quarterback is Mike White, who was signed to the practice squad last week.
“Ideally, it would be nice to say, this is what we’re doing,” Gase said. “That’s just not the situation. We’ve just got to keep talking to the doctors every day, keep talking with him and we have to be prepared to go either way.”
Gase spoke to the media before practice, so he was uncertain at that point as to how Darnold would look during practice — or how much work the quarterback would get.
“I just don’t know how it’s going to go,” Gase said. “We could go out there and plans could change. He could take every rep. It could go either way.”
The 22-year-old Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis on Sept. 11 and has missed two games because of the illness. He recently acknowledged he felt a bit under the weather — a sign the symptoms were beginning to affect him — in the season-opening loss to Buffalo on Sept. 8.
Darnold went 28 of 41 for 175 yards and a touchdown against the Bills, but wasn’t as sharp as he had been throughout training camp and the preseason.
The quarterback spoke Monday about not being concerned about his conditioning if he’s cleared to play, but more on his throwing and timing. Those are aspects of Darnold’s situation that will be evaluated by Gase, his coaches, general manager Joe Douglas — along with the trainers and doctors — to be certain that no one is rushing to get him back on the field, including the quarterback himself.
“That’s why it can’t just be one person,” Gase said. “That’s why Joe and those guys have to be involved. The training staff, the doctors. ... If it’s up to Sam, I know what’s going to happen. If it’s me, yeah. That’s why Joe is an important part of this. For him to say if it doesn’t look right.”
NOTES: LG Kelechi Osemele did not practice with shoulder and knee ailments. ... LB C.J. Mosley (groin), LB Jordan Jenkins (calf), WR Demaryius Thomas (hamstring) and RB/KR Trenton Cannon (hamstring) also sat out. ... WR Josh Bellamy (shoulder) was also limited, as were DL Quinnen Williams (ankle) and TE Dan Brown (ankle). ... The Jets signed OL Brandon Hitner to the practice squad Tuesday after Denver signed OT Calvin Anderson to its active roster from New York’s practice squad.
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