Jets fans disappointed by absent Darnold, but remain patient
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Sam Darnold and the New York Jets are still in a contract stalemate — with no clear resolution in sight.
The team held its third practice of training camp without the prized rookie quarterback on Sunday, the first session open to the general public. While there were plenty of green and white No. 14 jerseys roaming the Jets’ practice facility, none were being worn by the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft.
Darnold is unsigned and staying away from the team while his representatives and the Jets continue to hash out details in his contract. Meanwhile, many fans remain somewhat surprisingly patient and optimistic that the young quarterback will get to camp.
“Of course I’m disappointed,” said 24-year-old Kelly Stickle, a New Jersey resident wearing a No. 28 Curtis Martin jersey. “I mean, (he’s) the prospective starting quarterback, but hopefully they’ll reach an agreement soon and he’ll be out here.”
Both sides are hoping that’s the case. But it’s unclear when that will happen.
“I’ll get an update when he runs out on the field,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “I’m a coach. I don’t handle the money or anything like that, or the business side of it. I understand it all and I am aware of it all, but I coach the guys that are out here and that’s all I am worried about.”
Under the slotting system in the NFL, Darnold will receive a four-year, fully guaranteed contract worth $30.247 million, including a $20 million signing bonus — when he signs. But the dispute seems to hang on contract language.
One issue could be offsets, which if included could provide a team with a measure of financial protection if it cuts a player during his rookie contract. Not having offset language, a condition that Darnold’s representatives are apparently seeking, allows a player to receive his remaining salary from the team that cut him, as well as get paid by another team that signs him.
According to published reports by ESPN and the New York Post, another hang-up could be default language that is related to the guaranteed money. Some teams include stipulations that could void guarantees if a player is fined and/or suspended by the NFL for disciplinary reasons.
“I’m a businessman and I understand,” said 40-year-old Washington resident Kevin Deans, who was sporting a Darnold jersey. “It seems that they’ve just got to work some stuff out. I don’t hold it against anyone.”
That seemed to be the general feeling among many fans who attended Jets practice. They’re not happy Darnold isn’t in camp, but are hopeful this storyline will soon go away.
“It’s really unfortunate that Sam’s not here,” said 23-year-old Jimmy Egan of Yonkers, New York. “Obviously, we want him here to get the chemistry with the players and all that. But, I think from his perspective, he’s letting his agent handle the business side. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully it gets done soon.
“Hopefully, we’ll get Sam out here practicing with the guys and hopefully he starts against the Lions in September.”
That could become a much tougher task for Darnold the longer he holds out of camp. The 21-year-old quarterback is expected to compete with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the starting job, but is losing valuable on-field and in-classroom time with each passing day.
The 39-year-old McCown is the incumbent and currently the favorite to be under center for New York at Detroit on Sept. 10 in the regular-season opener. He and Bridgewater have been taking increased snaps in practices in Darnold’s absence.
Most teams have at least three quarterbacks early in camp to ease the workload on the players. Coach Todd Bowles has said the Jets could consider that, but had no intention to add another camp arm at this time.
“You’re just kind of literally more aware of every throw,” McCown said. “Even if I catch the ball, I’m throwing it to somebody else so it’s not a real rep. I’ll toss it with my other hand. You have to be smart with how many throws and be cognizant of how many throws you make.”
During the practice session Sunday, the offense was having a particularly solid stretch when Long Island resident John Pagano, a long-time fan known as “Cuz,” shouted: “We don’t need Darnold! If he were committed, he’d be here now. We’ve got two good quarterbacks here now!”
That sentiment was soon negated when Bridgewater threw an incomplete pass, setting off several fans in the metal bleachers who shouted: “Sign Darnold!”
If Darnold’s holdout lasts much longer, the as-of-now patient Jets fans might start voicing their frustrations soon, too.
“I believe he’ll be here before the start of the season, but you’ve got to take care of the business part,” said Andre Jones, 51, of Newark. “If he holds out too long, we’ll probably be a little disappointed. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
NOTES: Bowles confirmed that RB Eli McGuire will need surgery on his broken foot, and said a timetable for his return would be determined after the procedure. ... The Jets signed RB George Atkinson III, son of former Raiders safety George Atkinson, and waived TE Bucky Hodges. ... The team announced in a post on social media that it will introduce new uniforms next April to mark the franchise’s 60th season. The Jets did not disclose any details on the upcoming changes.