FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Two days after hinting that Zach Wilson could play in their season opener, the New York Jets announced Wednesday that the sophomore quarterback will miss at least three games as he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Jets coach Robert Saleh said Wilson won’t play “at the earliest” until Week 4 — a road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This means the Jets will open the season with Joe Flacco as quarterback, starting Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens – the team that drafted him in 2008.
“We’re going to make sure mind and body are 110 percent and make sure we’re doing well with him,” Saleh said of Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. “We feel like we’re going through with the doctors and everyone else.” talking, it’s going to be that Pittsburgh week.”
Wilson suffered a meniscus tear and a bone contusion during a non-contact game against the Philadelphia Eagles in a preseason game on August 12. Four days later, he underwent the surgical procedure, described by the team as a minor “finish” of the meniscus.
“For what the injury was, I’m very optimistic that I can come back this year and still play the way I want to,” Wilson said, for the first time since the injury.
Sources called it a two to four week timetable for his return, although the team never announced that. Team officials were vague, saying Wilson wouldn’t play until he was 100 percent. All clues pointed to Flacco starting the first or two games, then Saleh added a wrinkle on Monday by saying it’s “possible” Wilson could start against the Ravens.
That was never a serious option; it was a likely attempt at play, though Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t surprised to hear Flacco start.
Wilson said he knew from the moment he “leaved surgery” that he would miss the first three games. He later came back and said he never had an exact timetable. He hasn’t had a setback, according to Saleh, who said the bone bruise is a bigger problem than the meniscus.
Saleh explained his comments on Monday, saying, “There’s always that hope.” He said doctors and team officials decided “it’s not worth the risk” late Tuesday night.
“There’s the knee element, there’s the mind element, there’s the practice element,” Saleh said. “There are a lot of things other than the knee.”
Wilson has missed 14 practices and two preseason games. Last season, he sprained the same knee, costing him four games. Saleh insisted his quarterback is not injury prone and called it “bad luck.” Wilson said he is not concerned about the long-term stability of the knee.
“I really feel like I’m in a great place,” he said. “I feel really confident with where I am, with the rehab they’ve put me through.”
Wilson said he can fall back and throw, but he still isn’t running. The Jets could have put Wilson on short-term injured reserve, which would have put him out of action for four games, but they chose that option because they want him to practice while he recovers. He will not train this week.
This is a blow to the Jets who, after a 4-13 season, generated a lot of optimism after a prolific off-season. They turn to Flacco, the oldest player on the team at age 37.
‘Yes man. Cool Joe,” Saleh said. “He’s prepared. He’s insanely awesome. I’m excited for him and his opportunity. Even at 37 years old, I know it’s in the back of his mind that he’ll get the chance to play Baltimore.”
Flacco has lost seven in a row (the last five with the Jets) and hasn’t started a season opener with the Denver Broncos since 2019. This matchup probably has special significance as he will face the team he will quarterback to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season. He was replaced late in the 2018 season by current Ravens starter Lamar Jackson.
This will be Flacco’s first game against the Ravens, who traded him to Denver in 2019.
“He transformed us in so many ways in terms of the type of team we were,” Harbaugh said. “We threw the ball around a bit and had a lot of success with that. That is not really measurable.”
Flacco downplayed the importance of confronting the Ravens, but acknowledged, “There will obviously be different emotions that I haven’t experienced before with this one.”