Wilson cleared by doctors, will start for Jets in Pittsburgh

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New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson reacts during the second half of an NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in East Rutherford, NJ (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

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Zach Wilson is back under center for the New York Jets.

Coach Robert Saleh announced Wednesday that the second-year quarterback will make his season debut in Pittsburgh on Sunday “hopefully this week” in practice, six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.

“Absolutely, yes,” Saleh said.

Wilson had stepped up training in recent weeks, but Saleh said Monday the Jets are waiting for the quarterback’s doctors to release him before making a decision about this week. Wilson was cleared for full practice Wednesday as New York prepares for its game in Pittsburgh.

“It’s really exciting for him to be back on the football pitch – it’s been six weeks,” Saleh said. “There are a lot of different things to do to make sure we run an effective offense. From us as O-line coaches to receivers running routes – everyone is involved.

Joe Flacco started the first three games of the season, in which the Jets went 1-2 – including a stunning win at Cleveland two weeks ago when they rallied from a 13-point deficit in the final 1:55.

But New York struggled to stay consistent on offense and only held a 22-second lead – the final moments of the win over the Browns.

“It’s exciting to have him back there, but at the same time it’s not just about Zach,” Saleh said. “It’s about making sure we’re performing on all cylinders, like we should every week.”

Wilson suffered a bone bruise in the preseason opener against Philadelphia on August 12 and required arthroscopy to repair a torn meniscus. He was initially expected to miss two to four weeks, but the Jets insisted they would not rush Wilson to the field.

Saleh insisted there was no additional concern about bringing Wilson back while the Jets deal with offensive line issues. Starting left tackle George Fant was placed on the injured reserve Tuesday, joining Duane Brown and Mekhi Becton on the sidelines.

“His knee is 100 percent,” Saleh said of Wilson. “When it comes to tackles, we have all the faith in the world in the guys we have.”

Wilson, 23, is the focal point of a franchise looking to end an 11-year playoff drought — the longest active skid in the NFL.

After a rookie season marked by early struggles, a PCL sprain that sidelined him four games and a solid finish on his return, we’re counting on Wilson to make a jump in his progress.

He appeared more confident and focused in training camp, especially in the two weeks leading up to his injury.

Saleh had previously acknowledged that this summer’s injury was a setback for Wilson as he missed valuable training time and shots in pre-season games.

But the coach also said Wilson was doing mental rehearsals throughout and wouldn’t need a build-up period before playing.

The Jets did not put Wilson on injured reserve so he could practice with the team while he returned from the injury. He took part in 7v7 drills last week after training with players from the practice squad and substitutes.

“Practicality was very important,” Saleh said. “We kept him engaged, he was fully involved in all the walkthroughs and meetings, and was always able to do the extra work, throwing and knee pressing.

“So he’s very comfortable, he’s in a great mental state and everyone is very comfortable with where he is physically. And he’s ready to roll.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 11:54 a.m.

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