Sam Darnold’s big Jets step doesn’t quell Adam Gase’s fears

Sam Darnold returned to practice Wednesday on a limited basis for the first time in more than three weeks, but the Jets weren’t ready to make any declarations on his status for Sunday’s game against the Dolphins.

“We’re going in there thinking he’s going to be able to do quite a bit [in practice],” head coach Adam Gase said before the team’s workout in Florham Park. “With Sam, we’re taking this day-by-day, we’ll see how (Wednesday) goes.

“Hopefully things can go smooth and he feels good. Things have been trending in the right direction, but we’re going to take this one day at a time and see how this week goes.”

Gase added that the coaching staff will “eliminate any kind of unnecessary throwing” in practice by Darnold, limiting his participation to individual and team drills.

The third-year quarterback has missed the past two games with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, with veteran Joe Flacco starting in losses to the Patriots and Chargers around a Week 10 bye.

The Jets (0-10) appear headed for the No.1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, giving them a chance to select Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

Darnold has maintained that he wants to play again this season regardless of the team’s record. He said Monday that his shoulder feels better while throwing, but the Jets are unsure how it will respond to taking hits in game situations, something that is difficult to simulate in practice.

“I’m not worried about structural damage or something like that, it’s how bad is it going to be?” Gase said. “Is he going to be able to recover if he gets hit? If he gets driven to the ground is that pain going to be so much where he can’t go anymore.

“That’s the last thing we want to have happen in the first series of the game. If that happens, now we have an issue. We got to keep talking through it, see how he feels. We’ll keep talking through this.”

Asked if Darnold will need to alter his playing style to protect his shoulder, Gase added that he and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains can “help him” by calling plays designed to protect his shoulder.

“We can avoid some of those type of things, but at the same time we have to let him play like he’s accustomed to playing,” Gase said. “His biggest thing to protect himself is when he gets in those positions outside the pocket, it might be a throwaway, instead of trying to do something crazy and extend the play to the point of putting him in harm’s way.

“I think there are some things that he can do to protect himself, but at the same time, where it doesn’t completely take away from the way that he plays.”

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