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Jets QB Sam Darnold says he's not worried about getting hit in return from mono

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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold feels safe, even behind an offensive line that allowed 10 sacks last week.

Darnold, who returns to the lineup after a four-week bout with mononucleosis, insisted Thursday that he's not concerned about potential complications arising from a blow to his previously enlarged spleen.

"When I'm out there playing, I'm not worried about guys hitting me or anything," he said. "I'm trusting the guys up front to do their thing, and I'm trusting the receivers to get open when it's time to pass the ball. For me, it's all about trust.

"When I do get hit, I know I'm not in danger anymore. They're letting me go out there and play because it's safe, so I'm not worried about that."

Just to make sure, Darnold will wear a hard-plastic shield that will cover his rib-cage area. He said the extra protection isn't restrictive and he expects to wear it for the remainder of the season.

He will start Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys after missing three games. He was cleared Tuesday morning when doctors determined his spleen had returned to its normal size. A swollen spleen is common for those afflicted with mono, and it could rupture with a blow to the midsection.

Playing quarterback for the Jets (0-4) is a dangerous job. Trevor Siemian tore ankle ligaments in Week 2 and third-stringer Luke Falk was removed from last week's game after his head was slammed to the turf on the ninth sack. The Jets feared a concussion, but he cleared the protocol.

Coach Adam Gase said he's not worried about Darnold's well-being.

"He should be good -- we should not have him dying on the field," he said with a half-smile.

The Jets had hoped to start Darnold last week, but he failed after two days of practice to receive medical clearance. They were forced to start Falk again.

The big issues for Darnold, who hasn't played since Week 1, are rust and conditioning.

"Having a couple of weeks of practice under my belt is a good thing," he said. "It's definitely going to help with [conditioning], but there's nothing like Sunday. Playing the first couple of series will be a little bit of a shock to the system, you could say, but I think I'm going to be ready."