Jets quarterback Zach Wilson did not plan on spending his Sunday on an airplane destined for Los Angeles, but according to head coach Robert Saleh, that's exactly where Wilson is headed. He will be examined and undergo a procedure scheduled for Tuesday to determine the status of the injury to his right knee sustained in the first quarter of last Friday's preseason game at Philadelphia. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will handle Wilson's surgery.
"He's on his way to L.A. to have his procedure," Saleh told reporters at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center on Sunday. "And then we wait."
With 4:29 to play in the opening quarter of the Jets' 24-21 win over the Eagles, Wilson was rushed and slipped out of the pocket, scrambling to his right for a 7-yard gain. But as tried to get by Philly's Nakobe Dean, Wilson's right knee appeared to give way as he planted his right foot and cut back to his left. Though the true extent of the injury, the treatment necessary and an estimate of how much time Wilson could miss will not be determined until the operation and after, he reportedly sustained a bone bruise and damage to the meniscus.
"Based on all the information at present available to us, I feel good," Saleh said. "But as I'm learning, you never know."
Saleh was alluding to his comments early last week after tackle Mekhi Becton left practice with a knee injury. At the time, the coach said he was optimistic that Becton, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, would not miss extended time. That initial optimism was turned on its head when it was determined that Becton is likely to miss the entire season. Saleh said on Sunday that Becton would also travel to L.A. to see the same Dr. ElAttrache who will examine and operate on Wilson.
"It's more of a consultation before making a decision on surgery," Saleh said, referring to Becton.
For Wilson, the knee injury is the second of his NFL career after he was drafted No. 2 overall by the Jets in 2021. He missed four games last season after sustaining a PCL injury, also to the right knee. He came back stronger, with a better understanding of the offensive scheme and the promise he showed at the end of the season carried over to the current training camp.
Saleh said that, depending on the nature of Wilson's injury and rehab time, the veteran Joe Flacco would work with the first team in practice for the balance of the preseason and would start against one of his former teams, the Baltimore Ravens, in the regular-season opener at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 11.
"I think it all depends on what happens with surgery and the feedback you get from the doctors," Saleh said, injecting a good deal of caution into any speculation on the timing of Wilson's return. "We'll gather all the information before making any decision. All those questions are valid."
Wilson had been working well in training camp with an array of offensive talent. WR Corey Davis is back from injury, Braxton Berrios was re-signed, the Jets drafted WR Garrett Wilson in the first round, Elijah Moore figures to be an important part of the offense, the team signed a pair of tight ends in free agency (C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Conklin), and finally, the Green & White added speed and power in the backfield by drafting RB Breece Hall. In addition, the offensive line was fortified with the signing of Laken Tomlinson
Now, with Zach Wilson most likely missing the rest of training camp, plus preseason games and joint practices with the Falcons and the Giants, there has been an audible with his development.
"It is a setback in that he's missing an unbelievable opportunity to get reps in and to play other defenses, especially the Giants who have an elaborate pressure system," Saleh said. "He has to stay dialed in and learn from his teammates and be involved in as much as he can be.
"The timing is terrible and it sucks, but he still has an opportunity to grow from it."