FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, whose job security is being threatened by the emergence of fan-favorite Mike White, said Thursday he’s focused on his health, not his playing status.
“I can’t even worry about that,” said Wilson, who will miss his third straight game with a sprained right knee.
The 2021 second overall pick returned to practice Wednesday, but acknowledged his knee “definitely is not 100%.” During his absence, the unheralded White has sparked the offense, fueling a potential quarterback controversy.
Wilson, speaking to reporters for the first time since his injury three weeks ago, said he’s not concerned about the sudden uncertainty surrounding the quarterback position.
“No, definitely not, and the reason is I’ve played only five games,” he said. “I just got here. I’m supposed to be a senior in college right now. You have to understand, it’s going to be hard. I’m not making excuses, but that’s where growth comes from.
“I definitely didn’t come here thinking this would be the greatest thing ever and we’re going to go undefeated. I knew it was going to be tough and that’s part of the process. That’s what makes football so fun. My time is going to come.”
Wilson will be inactive Sunday against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium.
Coach Robert Saleh left it open ended, declining to say whether Wilson will return to the lineup when he’s healthy. The rookie was struggling before he got hurt, and the Jets’ plan is to ride with White as long as he keeps producing.
“For a guy who hasn’t played a lot of ball, I do think his brain is pretty seasoned in this league,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFLeur said of White.
Echoing Wilson and Saleh, White said he’s approaching his job on a “week-to-week basis.” In five quarters, he has passed for 500 yards and four touchdowns. He played only one quarter last week against the Indianapolis Colts because of a right-forearm injury, which has healed.
“My mindset is, every time I go on the field, I want to show — whether it’s this team or the other 31 teams — I want to show them what I’m capable of and let the rest handle itself,” said White, who won the No. 2 job in training camp.
White has galvanized the offense with his leadership and patient approach, and his willingness to take checkdowns instead of forcing the ball downfield. Wilson said he’s learning from White.
“I would say my style of plays needs to get more like that,” said Wilson, adding that he made that adjustment during his college career at BYU.
Wilson said White is his closest friend on the team, and that they haven’t had to discuss a potentially awkward situation.
“We both understand this is part of the business of football,” Wilson said. “I want to play, he wants to play. It’s just how it is. What’s the point of butting heads when we can help each other out? I think we can both benefit from the situation.”
White seems to have won over his teammates. Every time he walks in the locker room, the players break out into a “Mike White!” chant. The fans chanted the same thing in the Jets’ last home game, Oct. 31, a upset win over the Cincinnati Bengals.
“The guys won’t stop chanting, ‘Mike White!'” he said. “I told them, ‘It has to stop at some point, guys.'”
White said he hopes to hear it Sunday, “because that means the offense is doing something good.”