Sam Darnold cleared to play for Jets; Steelers’ Mason Ruldoph remains in concussion protocol

New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold will be back this week after missing three games while recovering from mononucleosis.
(Todd Olszewski / Getty Images)

Sam Darnold’s spleen is fully healthy and he’ll be back under center as the struggling Jets’ starting quarterback.

Darnold was cleared by doctors Tuesday to play this week after he missed three games while recovering from mononucleosis. He had medical tests to determine if the swelling in his spleen — a common symptom of the illness — had dissipated enough for him to play again. The Jets announced in a Twitter post that Darnold would start Sunday at home against Dallas.

It’s some rare good news for the Jets, who are 0-4 — their worst start since 2003 — while dealing with several injuries to key players. And Darnold’s illness is at the top of the list.


The team was optimistic last week that the former USC star would be able to play at Philadelphia, which was the initial goal for his return. Darnold took first-team snaps last Wednesday and Thursday, but an ultrasound and blood test last Thursday night revealed he was not yet able to be fully cleared. So Luke Falk — on one day of full reps with the first-team offense — started his second straight game for New York.

The Jets lost 31-6 and Falk was sacked nine times and had two turnovers returned for touchdowns while New York struggled to get anything going on offense. That has been a common theme during Darnold’s absence, with Adam Gase’s offense ranking at or near the bottom of the league in several categories. New York has just 233 yards of total offense in its last two games combined. With Falk starting, the Jets had 105 against New England two weeks ago and 128 at Philadelphia.

“It’s probably more than just Sam getting out there,” Gase said Monday. ”We have a lot of other things to clean up. Sam is able to hide things sometimes for us, where if we make a mistake, he covers it up. I think we just need to do a better job as a group making sure that all 11 are on the same page.”

Mason Rudolph still in concussion protocol

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin says quarterback Mason Rudolph “appears to be doing fine” but remains in the concussion protocol following an illegal hit by Baltimore safety Earl Thomas.

Rudolph left last weekend’s overtime loss to Baltimore in the third quarter after Thomas hit Rudolph in the chin with his helmet. Rudolph was knocked unconscious on the play but was able to slowly make his way off the field. Tomlin made it a point to say Rudolph was cleared by medical personnel to walk off under his own power and the fact the medical cart malfunctioned didn’t play a factor in the decision.

Rudolph went to a hospital for evaluation before being cleared to go home. Rudolph was at the team’s facility on Monday, but Tomlin declined to give a timetable on Rudolph’s potential availability for Sunday’s visit to Los Angeles to play the Chargers.


Rookie undrafted free agent Devlin Hodges will start at quarterback if Rudolph is unable to play.

The Steelers will be without running back Jaylen Samuels for about a month. Samuels underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

Fox Sports hires Gronk

Fox Sports has hired Rob Gronkowski as an NFL analyst. The network announced on Tuesday that the retired New England Patriots tight end will make his debut during Thursday night’s pregame show before the Patriots-New York Giants game.

Gronkowski is expected to appear on Fox’s NFL studio show as well as be an analyst for some games.