FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Two days after hinting that Zach Wilson could play in their season opener, the New York Jets announced Wednesday that the second-year quarterback will miss at least three games as he continues to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery.
Jets coach Robert Saleh said Wilson won't play until Week 4 "at the earliest" -- a road game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
This means the Jets will open the season with Joe Flacco at quarterback, starting Sunday at MetLife Stadium against the Baltimore Ravens -- the team that drafted him in 2008.
"We're going to make sure mind and body are 110 percent and make sure we do right by him," Saleh said of Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick in 2021. "We feel like, from talking to the doctors and everyone, it's going to be that Pittsburgh week."
Wilson suffered a meniscus tear and bone bruise on a noncontact play against the Philadelphia Eagles in an Aug. 12 preseason game. Four days later, he underwent the surgical procedure, described by the team as a minor "trim" to the meniscus.
"For what the injury was, I'm very optimistic to be able to get back and still play football the way I want to this year," Wilson said, commenting for the first time since the injury.
Sources called it a two- to four-week timetable for his return, although the team never announced that. Team officials were vague, saying Wilson wouldn't play until he was 100 percent. All indications pointed to Flacco starting the first game or two, then Saleh added a wrinkle Monday by saying it's "possible" that Wilson could start against the Ravens.
That was never a serious option; it was a likely attempt at gamesmanship, although Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he wasn't surprised to hear that Flacco is starting.
Wilson said he knew from the moment he "walked out of surgery" that he'd miss the first three games. He later backtracked, saying he never had an exact timetable. He hasn't suffered a setback, according to Saleh, who said the bone bruise is a bigger issue than the meniscus.
Explaining his comments from Monday, Saleh said: "There's always that hope." He said doctors and team officials decided late Tuesday night "it's not worth the risk."
"There's the knee element, there's the mind element, there's the practice element," Saleh said. "There are a whole lot of things other than the knee."
Wilson has missed 14 practices and two preseason games. He sprained the same knee last season, costing him four games. Saleh insisted his quarterback isn't injury prone, calling it "bad luck." Wilson said he's not concerned about the long-term stability of the knee.
"I actually feel like I'm in a great spot," he said. "I feel really confident with where I am, with the rehab they've had me going through."
Wilson said he's able to drop back and throw, but still isn't running. The Jets could have placed Wilson on short-term injured reserve, which would've sidelined him for four games, but they opted against that option because they want him to be able to practice while he recovers. He won't practice this week.
This is a blow for the Jets, who, after a 4-13 season, generated plenty of optimism after a productive offseason. They turn to Flacco, the oldest player on the team at age 37.
"Heck, yeah, man. Cool Joe," Saleh said. "He's been preparing. He's freaking awesome. I'm excited for him and his opportunity. Even at 37, I know it's in the back of his head that he's getting a chance to play Baltimore."
Flacco has lost seven straight (the last five with the Jets) and hasn't started a season opener since 2019 with the Denver Broncos. This matchup probably has special meaning because he will face the team he quarterbacked to a Super Bowl title after the 2012 season. He was replaced late in the 2018 season by the Ravens' current starter, Lamar Jackson.
This will be Flacco's first game against the Ravens, who traded him to Denver in 2019.
"He kind of transformed us in so many ways in terms of the type of team we were," Harbaugh said. "We were throwing the ball around a little bit and having a lot of success with that. That's kind of immeasurable, really."
Flacco downplayed the significance of facing the Ravens, but acknowledged, "obviously there's going to be some different emotions that I haven't experienced before with this one."