New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will miss Monday night's game against the Cleveland Browns with mononucleosis, and according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Darnold could be out for nearly two months with the illness:
But ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Sunday morning that a return by Week 5 remains a possibility:
Chris Mortensen @mortreport
Darnold's physical conditioning will be measured. Mentally, the team is uploading daily practice installs and he's studying future opposing defenses like the Eagles and Cowboys. So, he's feeling better but obviously won't risk the QB until the spleen is determined to be stable.
And Jay Glazer reported on Fox NFL Sunday that Darnold was hoping to return to the Jets as early as this upcoming week:
"I actually talked to Sam Darnold last night. He's heard a lot of these reports too. He said, 'I don't know where they're coming from, but I want you to clear a couple of things up. There's certain reports that I've lost 25 pounds. I haven't.' Says, 'I've lost maybe five pounds.' Actually, he said, 'I feel good enough to play again. I'm shocked at how good I've felt. I felt horrible earlier in the week, I'm hoping to rejoin my teammates as early as this week.' He said, 'The problem right now is my spleen is so inflamed, it's not protected by the ribs. So I've got to wait, my doctor said, 21 days.' But he thinks he's only going to miss two weeks because they have the bye week in Week 4. He's hoping to come back right after that."
The difference of a few games could be impactful, especially with contests against the New England Patriots and tough matchups against the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, all before Week 7.
Those games would be difficult to win with Darnold under center let alone without him.
A prolonged absence would also keep Darnold from building chemistry with veteran wideout Demaryius Thomas, who was added by the team this week in a trade with the New England Patriots.
In the meantime, Trevor Siemian will serve as the team's starting quarterback. In 26 career games (24 starts), Siemian has posted 5,686 yards, 30 touchdowns and 24 interceptions, completing just 59.3 percent of his passes. Those are mediocre marks, though he is 13-11 in his career as a starter.
The Jets do have Le'Veon Bell in the backfield, however, giving them a focal point on offense to take some of the pressure off Siemian. And getting back tight end Chris Herndon in Week 5 will be a major boost for either Siemian or Darnold as well.
The Jets are still probably a season away from being playoff contenders, as evidenced by a disappointing 17-16 loss against the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. Add in Darnold's illness, and it's been a tough start to the season for the Jets, who could find themselves in a major hole no matter when their young quarterback returns.