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Robert Saleh: Zach Wilson's Back at Jets Camp, 'Champing at the Bit to Get to Rehab'

Head Coach Declined to Put Timeline on QB's Return; For Now the First Offense Is in Joe Flacco's Hands


Zach Wilson's newest journey — from second-year Jets starting quarterback to his second knee injury in less than a calendar year to Los Angeles for surgery and back to North Jersey — has proceeded fairly swiftly and without complications, as head coach Robert Saleh said after Thursday's training camp practice.

"Zach flew back last night. He's here today," Saleh told reporters. "He's already walking, he's in really good spirits. And he's chomping at the bit to get to rehab."

That's a validation statement that took a long time, relatively speaking, for Saleh and the Jets to make. They went from having a potentially favorable prognosis on Wilson's knee injury in the first quarter of the preseason opener at the Eagles to getting word that his Tuesday procedure required only a meniscus trim and that there were no other issues to address in getting him back on the plane to Newark Liberty late Wednesday.

The next questions for the coach, of course, had to do with when. When did he think Wilson will be ready to return. Saleh didn't directly answer whether it will be Wilson or Joe Flacco starting the season opener on Sept. 11 at MetLife Stadium against the Ravens.

"It's really going to be dictated by how he feels, and when he's ready to go," Saleh said. "We're going to make sure we do right by him in terms of making sure he's 100 percent healthy. Whenever that is, that's when he'll hit the field."

"If Zach is ready to go, he's going to be the Week 1 starter," he answered a different question. "If not, then Joe will. We're going to take it by how Zach looks, how he moves, how he feels, and what the doctors tell us."

Meanwhile, Flacco has stepped under center and taken the first offense's reins for now.

"It's is comforting," Saleh said about being able to turn to a seasoned, decorated veteran signal-caller like Flacco while Wilson mends. "And I'll throw a shoutout to Mike White, too. I've said it a hundred times — I think we've got three starting quarterbacks. Joe's proven throughout his time that he's a winner. ... He's been efficient. We've got all the confidence in the world in him to get the job done."

And that goes for the players at practice and in games circling around him to get the play calls.

"There's just a lot of respect," the coach said. "Joe's a veteran, he understands football, he's got a calm to him in the huddle, he's got a great demeanor, a great presence. It's all-encompassing for him. He's been there, done that, so he just kind of eases the huddle."

Saleh noted that the offense under Flacco's hand should look the same as it does under Wilson's, except maybe for Wilson's sometimes outstanding dance steps when he's on the move.

"Zach's capable of doing everything Joe does. Obviously, Zach's younger. No offense to Joe, he's a little more spry in the legs so he can run and scramble with a little more efficiency," Saleh said. "But that doesn't mean Joe can't move. Having Joe in there doesn't limit anything that we can do with Zach."

See the Green & White on the practice field on Thursday during week four at training camp.

So for the near term, the ball is in Flacco's and White's court, not to mention that of Chris Streveler, the journeyman and comeback kid who directed drives to two short fourth-quarter touchdown passes to overcome 14-10 and 21-17 Eagles leads in the Jets' 24-21 road win.

The players took Wednesday off, then returned Thursday for practice among themselves. That will be followed by Friday and Saturday joint practices with the Falcons at the Atlantic Health Training Center, then by Monday night's nationally televised preseason home opener vs. Atlanta at MetLife Stadium.

The next week presents a parallel timeline as the Jets and Giants hold one joint practice at the Giants' facility on Aug. 25, three days before the Jets host the Giants in the teams' annual summer meeting at MetLife as both teams wrap up their three-game preseason schedules.

Wilson will be rehabbing through all that. And the hopes for him, Saleh, the Jets and their fans is that he's back and running the Green & White offense before we know it.

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