One celebrated rookie quarterback is close to returning, while another is staring at the possibility of missing some time.
The Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday as he recovers from a sprained throwing elbow. The New York Jets’ Sam Darnold, conversely, was unable to practice because of a sprained foot. Reports out of the Big Apple suggest it’s unlikely he plays Sunday, delaying the first meeting between the No. 3 (Darnold) and No. 7 (Allen) overall draft picks.
If Allen isn’t ready to go, that means it would be a Nathan Peterman-Josh McCown matchup. That’s something that won’t be known until later in the week, when the Bills have a chance to see how Allen makes it through practice.
“One play, one day at a time right now,” coach Sean McDermott said Wednesday.
With the bye week looming after the game in New York, the Bills have to consider how much additional time Allen would have to heal if he is held out of Sunday’s game.
“Our docs give us … whether that would help or not,” McDermott said. “That’s one of the factors that we’ve talked about.”
Even if it’s not this week, Allen’s return looks to be imminent.
“It’s really about feeling comfortable throwing again and making sure that I can continue to keep doing the things I was doing before the injury and doing it without thinking about it,” Allen said. “Sometimes, people have injuries and they might be fully healed to go, but something in their minds is telling them, ‘I shouldn’t stress it this much.’ We’re still just finding the boundaries that we can continue to push through or maybe we should pull it back. It’s just kind of a feel-out process right now.”
Allen kept a sense of humor Wednesday, saying, “I don’t like to talk about that,” when asked what doctors have told him about his risk of re-injury.
“We really haven’t gone over that,” he said in the next breath. “We’re just trying to be as cautious as possible.”
Allen’s return is anxiously awaited, because the offense has been mostly unwatchable since he’s gone out. The Bills have one touchdown in their last three games, and are averaging a league-low 10.7 points per game.
“I definitely think we’re really close and a lot closer than what people think,” Allen said. “People tend to see the scores that have been put on and there are a few games that got out of hand, for sure, but as a team, we’re very close. Taking care of the football is our main priority and when we can do that, we’re going to be in football games because of our defense. They’re playing really well. In turn, offense, we’ve got to protect the football, continue to move the ball on third down and move the chains. When we can do that consistently, that’s when we’re going to start seeing this thing get reversed.”
Allen didn’t want to put a percentage on how he feels in his recovery, but said he’s “feeling good.”
“We’re doing a good job with it. We have a great training staff here and they’ve been doing a lot of great things with me and have allowed me to get back on the field sooner than people thought or maybe even than I thought,” he said.
Still, sitting out the last three games has been difficult.
“It’s frustrating not playing for me,” he said. “I’m a competitor and I’m sure a lot of people who don’t get to play because of an injury, whether it’s their pride or their ego, whatever it is, they want to be out on the field. The reason I want to be out on the field is to help my team, whatever which way possible I can. When I can’t do that, it hurts me. To be back out here and being with the guys and putting my helmet on and strapping up, it feels like football again.”
The impact of the injury on Allen’s development remains to be seen, but he is taking the glass-half-full approach.
“I don’t think it’s affected me negatively at all. I actually think it was kind of a blessing in disguise,” he said. “I got to see a vet come in and control the offense the way it needs to be controlled. I got to see that from him and got to learn and sit back. … It’s definitely going to help out in the long run.”
While Allen is close to returning from injury, Darnold is dealing with one that he suffered Sunday against Miami. Reports out of New York indicated Wednesday that the injury could force Darnold to miss multiple games.
“We spent some time with Sam – tremendous young man and was very impressed with him going through the process,” McDermott said of the Bills’ due diligence on the draft’s top quarterbacks last spring. “You watch him play, and he’s had some moments, obviously, that he’d like back, but he’s had some, just as many if not more good moments. We’ve got a lot of respect for him and I’m sure that he’s going to be a good football player and good quarterback for years to come in this league.”
Veteran quarterback Derek Anderson did not practice Wednesday. He remains in the league’s concussion protocol. The same is true for rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, although he was able to practice on a limited basis. Also not practicing for the Bills were running back Chris Ivory (shoulder), tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) and defensive end Trent Murphy (knee). Lorenzo Alexander and Kyle Williams got their usual veteran rest days.
Wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin was a limited participant because of a knee injury.
Former Bills cornerback Phillip Gaines didn’t have to wait long to find a new home. Gaines was claimed off waivers Wednesday by the Cleveland Browns a day after being released by the Bills. Gaines replaces another Gaines on the Browns’ roster, former Bills cornerback E.J. Gaines, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.