Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

The New York Jets rookie is back at practice after a foot injury, but waiting for full clearance may be the most painful part.

Geoff Magliocchetti

“The waiting is the hardest part/ Every day you get one more yard/ You take it on faith, you take it to the heart/ The waiting is the hardest part.”

FLORHAM PARK, NEW JERSEY—The late, great Tom Petty did not have Sam Darnold in mind when he wrote “The Waiting.” After all, Darnold wouldn’t exist for another 16 years. But the song, off Petty and the Heartbreakers’ 1981 album Hard Promises, does perfectly describe Darnold’s current predicament.

Don’t tell Darnold, 21, the 3-8 New York Jets have nothing to play for. The touted first-round pick is itching to return to the Jets’ lineup, eager to get valuable experience to end his rookie season.

“It felt pretty normal for the most part,” Darnold reported after practice. “There were some times where I felt like my feet weren’t necessarily quick enough, but that just comes with a couple of more practices. But I felt really good for the most part.”

It’s been three weeks since Darnold has partaken in an NFL game. A foot injury suffered in a November 4 loss to Miami has cost him precious time in his rookie season. The ailment has forced him to watch the last two games from the sidelines.

Darnold has gradually worked his way back to the field. Wednesday was a big step toward returning, making his first throws since an interception ended the Miami visit.

He was listed as “limited” on the team’s post-practice injury report, opening a chance for him to play on Sunday against the Tennessee Titans (4:05 p.m. ET, CBS). After practice, he was in good spirits during his availability.

Sam Darnold
(Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Though he had a swagger in his step after returning to active drills, his lively comments were twinged with an aura of desperation.

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