Jets’ Wilson out likely until Week 4; Flacco to start

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FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Two days after hinting that Zach Wilson could play in their season opener, the New York Jets announced Wednesday that the second-year 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 until Week 4 “at the earliest” — a road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

That means the Jets will open the season with Joe Flacco at quarterback, starting Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens — the team that drafted him in 2008.

“We want to make sure the mind and body are 110 percent and make sure we do the right thing by him,” Saleh said of Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. “We want to talk to the doctors and everybody else . . , it’s going to be that Pittsburgh week.”

Wilson suffered a meniscus tear and bone bruise on a non-contact play 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 “trimming” of the meniscus.

“For what the injury was, I’m very optimistic to be able to come back and still play football the way I want to this year,” Wilson said, commenting for the first time since the injury.

Sources called it a two- to four-week timetable for his return, though the team never announced it. Team officials were vague, saying Wilson would not play until he was 100 percent. All indications were that Flacco would start the first game or two, then Saleh added a wrinkle Monday by saying it’s “possible” Wilson could start against the Ravens.

It was never a serious possibility; it was a likely attempt at gamesmanship, though Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn’t surprised to hear Flacco is starting.

Wilson said he knew from the moment he “walked out of surgery” that he would miss the first three games. He later backtracked and said he never had an exact schedule. He hasn’t suffered a setback, according to Saleh, who said the bone bruise is a bigger problem than the meniscus.

Saleh explained his comments from Monday: “There is always that hope.” He said doctors and team officials decided late Tuesday night that “it’s not worth the risk.”

“There’s the knee element, there’s the mind element, there’s the practice element,” Saleh said. “There are a whole lot of things other than the knee.”

Wilson has missed 14 practices and two preseason games. He sprained the same knee last season, costing him four games. Saleh insisted his quarterback is not injured, calling it “bad luck.” Wilson said he is not concerned about the long-term stability of the knee.

“I actually feel like I’m in a great place,” he said. “I feel really confident with where I’m at with the rehab they’ve put me through.”

Wilson said he is able to drop back and throw, but he still doesn’t run. The Jets could have placed Wilson on short-term injured reserve, which would have sidelined him for four games, but they opted against that option because they want him to be able to practice while he recovers. I’m not training this week.

This is a blow to the Jets, who after a 4-13 season generated plenty of optimism after a productive offseason. They turn to Flacco, the oldest player on the team at age 37.

“Hell yeah, man. Cool Joe,” Saleh said. “He’s prepared. He’s freaking awesome. I’m excited for him and his opportunity. Even at 37, I know it’s in the back of his mind that he gets a chance to play Baltimore.”

Flacco has lost seven straight (the last five with the Jets) and hasn’t started a season opener since 2019 with the Denver Broncos. This matchup likely has special significance because he will face the team he quarterbacked to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season. He was replaced late in the 2018 season by the Ravens’ current starter, Lamar Jackson.

This will be Flacco’s first game against the Ravens, who traded him to Denver in 2019.

“He’s kind of transformed us in so many ways from the type of team we were,” Harbaugh said. “We threw the ball around a little bit and had a lot of success with it. It’s really overwhelming.”

Flacco downplayed the significance of facing the Ravens, but acknowledged, “obviously there’s going to be some different emotions that I haven’t experienced before with this one.”

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