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Sam Darnold jogging and out of walking boot, but skips Jets practice out of bye

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Two weeks removed from injuring his right foot, quarterback Sam Darnold remained a bystander at practice as the New York Jets returned Monday from their bye-week break.

But, unlike the previous practices he missed, Darnold didn't have a walking boot and, afterward, he sounded encouraged by his progress.

"It feels good. It feels great," said Darnold, who has started jogging. "Nothing for me to complain about. No pain, either."

That's good news for the Jets (3-7), losers of four straight, but that doesn't mean their prized rookie is cleared to play Sunday against the first-place New England Patriots (7-3) at MetLife Stadium.

Coach Todd Bowles, always tight-lipped with regard to injuries, said it's too soon to tell if Darnold will practice Wednesday. He described Darnold's status as "day-to-day, week-to-week." If he can't practice Wednesday, it'll be a strong indication that he won't be ready to face the Patriots.

Out of playoff contention, the Jets will be cautious with Darnold, who was injured Nov. 4 against the Miami Dolphins. If there's any concern, they will keep him on the bench for another game in favor of Josh McCown. The team is calling it a strained foot.

"The foot is really good," said Darnold. "I feel really good. Like I said last week, I'm just following protocol right now."

The Jets struggled mightily under McCown, who threw two interceptions and completed only 17 of 34 passes for 135 yards in a 41-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Nov. 11. The embarrassing loss was a severe blow to Bowles' job security.

"Morale is up," Bowles insisted. "I mean, we lost a game. We lost it in a bad way, we understand that. You either fight or you fall. All we know how to do is fight. I trust the guys in the locker room and the coaching staff to fight."

Maybe Darnold could provide a spark, but he, too, was struggling, throwing seven interceptions in his past three starts.

If he plays, it'll be his first confrontation against Tom Brady, who at 41 is 20 years his senior.

"I think the idea of going up against him and the Patriots, coach Belichick and all those guys, it's a cool thing, especially with me growing up in the era where they really controlled the whole NFL, for the most part," Darnold said. "It would be really cool if I have the opportunity."