Thu Oct 10 7:43pm ET
By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
AP Pro Football Writer
In this Sept. 8, 2019, file photo, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (14) throws a pass during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, in East Rutherford, N.J. Darnold has been cleared by doctors to play this week after he missed three games while recovering from mononucleosis. The Jets announced in a Twitter post that Darnold will start Sunday at home against Dallas. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Sam Darnold stepped to the podium as the New York Jets' starting quarterback again, his once-swollen spleen no longer keeping him from playing in a game.
Nearly a month of medical tests, tough questions, major concerns and big-time frustration is over.
And so is Darnold's time on the sideline.
''The spleen is good, finally,'' a smiling Darnold said Thursday. ''I finally get to wear a white jersey out there and be part of the team. It's been good to be back officially and get some practices under my belt.''
Darnold will start Sunday at home against Dallas, his first game since the season opener. A bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for three games after being diagnosed on Sept. 11. He was cleared by doctors Monday to play in a game, and Darnold has no concerns about getting back out on the field - with Cowboys defenders looking to make for a rough return.
''When I'm out there playing, I'm not worried about guys hitting me or anything,'' Darnold said. ''I'm trusting the guys up front to do their thing and I'm trusting the receivers to get open when it's time to pass the ball. For me, it's all about trust.
''When I do get hit, I know I'm not in danger anymore. They're letting me go out there and play because it's safe, so I'm not worried about that.''
Darnold will wear customized protective padding around his ribs/spleen area - likely for the rest of the season - just as a precaution. He said it's not restrictive, and will surely give him peace of mind.
The 0-4 Jets have struggled mightily without their starting quarterback, failing to generate much in his absence. Trevor Siemian started the second game of the season, but was lost for the season with an ankle injury, so third-stringer Luke Falk was under center the past two games - as New York rolled up a total of just 233 yards combined.
''You are what your record says you are and right now we aren't a very good offense,'' offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said. ''Sam is not a magic wand. He is a really good player that is going to lift the execution of this team and he is a really gifted player with the ball in his hands and we are really excited to have him.
''But there are still things that we need to clean up, fundamentally and technically, to make sure the other 10 guys are doing their jobs the right way.''
The offensive line has allowed an NFL-worst 23 sacks, including 10 last week at Philadelphia. Falk, in a tough spot after being merely a practice squad quarterback until Week 2, held on to the ball too long at times. He had no chance to do anything at others.
''Yeah, he should be good, we should not have him dying on the field,'' coach Adam Gase joked of Darnold. ''We need to do a better job protecting the quarterback and we need to get the ball out on time, we need to run the right routes, it's got to be the right play call.''
That combination of errors so far has affected the entire operation of the offense, from Le'Veon Bell and the running backs to the wide receivers and tight ends. The Jets rank last in the NFL in total offense.
Darnold now is being looked at by some as a savior of sorts, someone who'll immediately get everything back on track.
The 22-year-old quarterback is keeping things in perspective, though.
''For me, it's all about staying within myself,'' he said. ''Not doing too much.''
The comeback nearly happened last week at Philadelphia as Darnold went through two days of practices running the first-team offense. But a medical test last Thursday night confirmed he wasn't yet healthy enough to play.
''When you're out that long,'' he said, ''you realize how awesome the game is because you miss it so much.''
Now, he'll be able to knock the rust off for real, with a chance to get the Jets in the win column for the first time this season.
''Having a couple of weeks of practice under my belt is a good thing,'' Darnold said. ''It's definitely going to help, but there's nothing like Sunday. Playing the first couple of series will be a little bit of a shock to the system, you could say, but I think I'm going to be ready.
''And hopefully, after those couple of series, I think, I'll feel right at home.''
NOTES: LB C.J. Mosley (groin), DE Henry Anderson (shoulder), LG Kelechi Osemele (shoulder/knee/illness) and RB-KR Trenton Cannon (foot/ankle) didn't practice. ... CB Nate Hairston (knee) was limited after not practicing Wednesday. Also limited were LB Jordan Jenkins (calf), DL Quinnen Williams (ankle) and WRs Josh Bellamy (shoulder) and Demaryius Thomas (hamstring/knee). ... S Jamal Adams won his appeal of his $21,056 fine by the NFL for his hit on Browns QB Baker Mayfield in Week 2. ''I knew I was going to win it because it was legal,'' Adams said of the hit. He added that with the money he'll be able to keep, he'll spend it to buy his mother Michelle a gift for her birthday - which was also Thursday.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Antonio Callaway was a surprise healthy scratch ahead of his team's Week 10 game against the Buffalo Bills. According to head coach Freddie Kitchens, Callaway's benching was a "one-game thing" so the second-year wideout should be active for Thursday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. A source told the Plain Dealer that Callaway's benching was for disciplinary reasons. When asked, Kitchens responded, I dont know if hes gotten the message or not, but Im not wavering. It was only for yesterday, yes.'' With Callaway back in the fold, Sunday's hero Rashard Higgins will presumably go back to the bench in three-wide packages.
Los Angeles Rams QB Jared Goff was not injured in the third quarter of the Rams' Week 10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers as previously thought when Blake Bortles came on to replace him for a play. Instead, head coach Sean McVay told reporters Monday, Nov. 11, that Bortles' third-and-2 run was designed for Bortles.
Fantasy Spin: It's impossible to know for sure if this will be a one-time occurrence or the first hint McVay isn't happy with the way Goff is running the offense, but the Rams appear to be searching for answers on offense. This is likely much ado about nothing, but it's something to keep an eye on moving forward if Goff continues to struggle. Consider him a low-floor, high-upside QB2 in Week 11 against the Chicago Bears.
The Green Bay Packers Defense put up decent numbers in their Week 10 victory. The unit posted three sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery. They also held a Carolina offense averaging 25 points per game this year to just 16 points. The highlight of the day for the Green Bay defense was their game-saving goal-line stand against Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey. The Packers will rest up during their Week 11 bye before a tough matchup against the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers kicker Mason Crosby had a solid game against the Carolina Panthers. The veteran kicker made a 47-yard field goal and all three extra-point attempts. He's now made at least one field goal in three straight games. For the season, Crosby has made 13 of 14 field goals and all 29 extra-point attempts. He'll enjoy a bye next week before a tough Week 12 date with the San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers tight end Jimmy Graham had a decent day that could have been even better. The 32-year-old caught two of four targets for 59 yards but had a touchdown catch overturned. It was nice to see Graham eclipse 50 receiving yards for the first time since Week 7, though 48 of his yards came on one catch. The veteran tight end has become a touchdown-or-bust option in fantasy. He'll get a bye in Week 11 before taking on the best pass defense in the NFL, the San Francisco 49ers.
Houston Texans WR Will Fuller (hamstring) returned to practice Monday, Nov. 11.
Fantasy Spin: It's his first football activity since going down in Week 7 and at least puts him on track to return against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11. Outside of the one incredible three-touchdown game he had in early October against the Atlanta Falcons, it's been an unspectacular season for him. It seems unlikely that will change versus the Ravens, so owners should look for better options to start in Week 11.
Tennessee Titans TE Delanie Walker (ankle) was spotted running on the field Monday, Nov. 11, and anticipates returning to action against the Jacksonville Jaguars following the team's bye week.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Allen Lazard saw a season-high six targets against the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. He only caught two of them for 27 yards. Still, Lazard might be quietly staking claim to the Packers' number-two wide receiver role. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has gone missing the last two weeks. Geronimo Allison hasn't eclipsed 50 receiving yards or caught a touchdown since Week 4. Meanwhile, Lazard has seen at least four targets in every game and has at least 40 receiving yards in four of five games. Lazard and the Packers get a bye in Week 11 before their Week 12 matchup with the tough San Francisco 49ers.
Green Bay Packers wide receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison were both unproductive in their team's Week 10 victory over the Carolina Panthers. Valdes-Scantling didn't register a catch for the second straight week. Meanwhile, Allison caught all three targets for a paltry six yards. For perspective, fellow receiver Davante Adams had more receiving yards in Week 10 than these two combined for the last three weeks. They both cannot be trusted for fantasy purposes anymore, at least until they prove otherwise. Hopefully, they'll shape up during their Week 11 bye because they'll face the San Francisco 49ers' league-best pass defense in Week 12.
Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams got back on track in Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers. Adams hauled in seven of 10 targets for 118 yards. The Pro Bowl receiver benefited from the absence of Panthers' star corner James Bradberry (groin) as he worked the other Carolina corners for his third 100-yard receiving game this year. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers only completed 17 passes in this one, but seven of them went to Adams. He's been the only trustworthy Green Bay wide receiver so far and has double-digit targets in back-to-back games. Adams will enjoy a bye week and then will take on a tough San Francisco 49ers Defense in Week 12.
Updating a previous report, Oakland Raiders S Lamarcus Joyner (hamstring) remains without a timetable to return, but his hamstring injury is not considered to be season-ending, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Jacksonville Jaguars WR Dede Westbrook (shoulder, neck) is expected to practice Monday, Nov. 11.
Fantasy Spin: Westbrook sat out Week 9 in London against the Houston Texans, but the bye apparently gave him all the time he needed to heal. He'll be returning to Nick Foles as the starting quarterback - a notable development considering the pair had great chemistry this summer. Assuming he and Foles can stay healthy, Westbrook stands a good chance of returning WR3 value down the stretch.
Pittsburgh Steelers RB James Conner (shoulder) is tentatively expected to return from a two-game absence and play in Week 11 versus the Cleveland Browns, according to comments made by head coach Mike Tomlin on Monday, Nov. 11.
Fantasy Spin: The Steelers play on Thursday this week, so owners won't have to wait very long to see if Tomlin's enthusiasm carries over to the field. In two full games as James Conner's replacement, Jaylen Samuels has rushed for 39 yards on 22 carries, so it is safe to say he didn't exactly put heat on him. Of more concern to Conner is Pittsburgh's inability to block well in the running game and a passing game that is doing just enough to get by. Consider Conner an RB2 for now, even in a favorable matchup.
Green Bay Packers running back Jamaal Williams had a decent day on the ground in his team's Week 10 win. The 24-year-old tallied 13 carries, the same number as backfield mate Aaron Jones, and 63 rushing yards. The 13 carries were his second-highest total this year, as he and Jones benefited from the run-heavy game script. It was nice to see Williams receive the same volume as Jones, though the latter hogged all the touchdowns. Williams, like Jones, didn't register a catch after logging four straight touchdown catches. Williams continues to be involved in Green Bay's offense heading into their Week 11 bye. They'll take on a stingy San Francisco 49ers Defense in Week 12.
Updating previous reports, Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (knee) was diagnosed with a knee sprain Monday, Nov. 11. He is not expected to miss significant time, according to ESPN's Jeremy Fowler.
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones bounced back from last week's dud in a big way. The 24-year-old picked up 93 rushing yards on 13 carries and scored three touchdowns in his team's 24-16 win over the Carolina Panthers. Jones sliced and diced through the Carolina defense all afternoon and was a touchdown machine in the red zone yet again. It's his second game this year with at least three touchdowns scored. The former UTEP star didn't register a target, but this may have been a result of the Panthers' run-funnel defense. Jones and the Packers head into a bye week before taking on a stingy San Francisco 49ers Defense.
New Orleans Saints CB Marshon Lattimore (hamstring) is considered week to week with a hamstring strain.
Atlanta Falcons TE Austin Hooper (knee) will have an MRI on his knee Monday, Nov. 11, and he's expected to miss time. The MRI will determine how much he'll miss.
Fantasy Spin: Hooper is having a breakout season with a 56-608-6 line. Luke Stocker has no fantasy value if Hooper is forced out of action for a prolonged period.
Atlanta Falcons RB Devonta Freeman (foot) will have an MRI Monday, Nov. 11, to determine the severity of his foot sprain.
Fantasy Spin: Freeman has been a disappointment with a 107-371-0 rushing line and a 38-282-3 receiving line. Brian Hill rushed 20 times for 61 yards in Week 10, and he could be a flex candidate if Freeman is out for a prolonged period. Snag him off waivers either way.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a quiet day against the Carolina Panthers in Week 10. Rodgers completed 17 of 29 passes for 233 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. With a lead at halftime, the Packers were content to run the ball in the second half- that explains why Rodgers had his fewest pass attempts since Week 3. The veteran quarterback proved earlier in the year that he can still win games for the Packers with his arm when needed. He'll have better fantasy days. Rodgers and the Pack will head into their Week 11 bye with their next matchup a Week 12 date with the San Francisco 49ers' number-one pass defense.