Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer 31d

Jets knock down 28-year-old wall with phone call to Patriots

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. Ice breaker: This was one of the strangest weeks in 31 years of covering the team. The announcement of quarterback Sam Darnold's mononucleosis was an all-timer, but equally stunning was the historic trade with their ancient enemies to the northeast, the New England Patriots.

What's next, coach Adam Gase joining Le'Veon Bell in his next rap video?

Gase is new to the Jets-Patriots rivalry, so I asked him if he realized the two organizations had gone decades without making a trade. In fact, the previous player trade between them was July 12, 1991, according to prosportstransactions.com. That's when the Jets sent tackle Kip Beach to New England for future considerations. (P.S.: Beach never played a game in the NFL.)

Yes, Gase knew the general history before the deal went down.

"I said that to Joe [Douglas] when he told me he was going to call them," Gase told ESPN, referring to his general manager. "I said, 'The organizations haven't traded in a long time.' He goes, 'We should call. The worst thing they can do is say no.' I was like, 'Great.'"

The Jets were desperate for a veteran wide receiver because of Quincy Enunwa's season-ending neck injury, so they put in a call to the Foxborough, Massachusetts, bunker. Less than 24 hours later, the deal was done: Demaryius Thomas to the Jets; a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Patriots.

It truly is a new era at One Jets Drive. Previously, they never would have looked to the Patriots for help. Truth be told, the previous administration made it a point to never call the Patriots. In this case, Gase's ties to Thomas -- they were together with the Denver Broncos -- provided the opening.

Belichick despises the Jets, but he has a cold heart for this stuff and will put emotion aside to make a sound business deal. By dealing Thomas, he picked up a draft pick and cleared $2.8 million in salary for a player who became expendable with the addition of Antonio Brown.

"I didn't know if they were going to say no, but it seems like they're football first -- what's best for the team," said Gase, adding that he has "a lot of respect" for Belichick. "They had a lot of receivers and they were trying to figure out what to do with that roster spot."

Give Gase and Douglas credit for thinking outside the box and ignoring the unwritten provisions of the Border War. When these teams do business, it's usually contentious -- i.e., the Bill Parcells (1997) and Belichick (2000) "trades," both of which included draft-pick compensation and a lot of acrimonious exchanges. Spygate (2007) drove another wedge between the franchises.

The teams actually made three trades during their AFL days, before the 1970 merger, according to the Jets website. Thomas marked the first Jets-Patriots trade of the Belichick era (2000-present), and now Belichick can say he has made a trade with every team.

Strange days, indeed.

2. When will Darnold return? It's difficult to predict because of the nature of mono, but a realistic timeline could look something like this: three weeks at home, resting, followed by at least two weeks of practice, depending on weight loss and conditioning. That puts him at Week 7, Oct. 21, against the Patriots, which means you're looking at a minimum of four games on the sideline. The Week 4 bye helps.

In the meantime, it's Trevor Siemian's team, starting Monday against the Cleveland Browns (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Gase said they didn't know it was mono until Wednesday night, but people started to notice Darnold seemed under the weather as far back as last Saturday, the eve of the opener, I'm told.

3. QB curse: Gase can't catch a break when it comes to quarterbacks and their health. In Miami, he had his starter (Ryan Tannehill) for only 24 of 48 games. Siemian will be Gase's sixth different starter since 2016. The only coach who can top that is Hue Jackson (Browns), who had seven over the same span.

The loss of a starting quarterback creates the ultimate test for a coach, whose job is to prevent doubt from creeping into the locker room. Gase did a nice job in the immediate aftermath of the Darnold news, rallying the team with a spirited, next-man-up speech.

The outside expectations are low without Darnold, so this is a chance for Gase to galvanize the team and quiet his critics. It would be quite an accomplishment if he can figure out a way to keep the team afloat during the brutal stretch of upcoming games.

4. Did you know? This will be the seventh time in franchise history the Jets will be starting two different quarterbacks in the first two games. Not only did they fail to make the playoffs in the previous six instances, but they did not record a winning record in any of those seasons.

5. Did you know? Part 2? The last Jets quarterback to win a Monday night game at home was Mark Sanchez, who beat the Dolphins in 2011. That seems like a lifetime ago.

6. Fit to be Ty'd: After displaying a versatile skill set in the preseason, running back Ty Montgomery got only five offensive snaps in the opener.

"Four," he said, quickly correcting me.

But who's counting, right?

Montgomery's lack of involvement was a surprise, considering Bell's long layoff. The smart play would be to get Montgomery on the field, perhaps paired with Bell, to create some headaches for the defense. The former wide receiver can line up anywhere in the formation. He downplayed his small role, claiming, "I don't have any thoughts [on it]. I knew Le'Veon was going to be prepared to do what he did. I was also prepared to give him a spell if he needed one."

7. We hardly knew ye: Kaare Vedvik will be remembered as a footnote in Jets history -- the dude who played one game, missed a couple of kicks and got fired. He was their current-day Tommy Parks.

Parks was a colorful character from 2001, an Elvis worshiper who lied to the Jets about his age and charmed the media with his circuitous career path. He punted in only one game, the '01 opener. The Indianapolis Colts returned one of his punts 78 yards for a touchdown, and that was the end of Parks. He never kicked again in the league.

Vedvik was a bad decision, and it might have cost them the game. The Jets gambled on an unproven, slumping kicker and trotted him out for the opener, thinking he'd suddenly find his groove in the crucible of his first regular-season game. It was a painful lesson. They should have dug a little deeper into his background. His preseason with the Baltimore Ravens was terrific, but his training camp practices were erratic, a veteran talent evaluator told me.

8. Happy 50th season: On Sept. 21, 1970, the Jets and Browns played the first Monday night game in history. Jets QB Joe Namath said he was thrilled to be in the spotlight, recalling how the team was excited because it knew the whole country would be watching. As for the actual game, Namath would rather forget it.

"I hate the thought of that first game because we lost," he said this week. "I had Emerson Boozer ... coming across the middle in the fourth quarter, and I threw it behind him. A cat named Andrews, a linebacker, intercepted it. So this is what I think of that Monday night game: I remember how lousy I was and we lost."

The cat was Billy Andrews, and he returned it 25 yards for a touchdown to seal a 31-21 victory for the home team.

9. Almost capped out: Remember when the Jets had $100 million in salary-cap room? Well, it's down to $6.1 million, per overthecap.com. Thomas is counting $2.8 million on the cap, which includes a $93,375 roster bonus for each week he's on the 46-man roster.

10. Sideline etiquette: One thing that struck me last week about Gase's sideline behavior: When the defense was on the field, he occasionally walked over to the bench to give instructions to the offense. I know some football purists who believe the coach never should turn his back to the game. Remember how Rex Ryan got eviscerated for missing a pick-six in a preseason game a few years back? On the flip side, there was Andy Reid last season in Kansas City, sitting alongside quarterback Patrick Mahomes on the bench.

The takeaway from Gase is that he really trusts defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

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