When Le'Veon Bell heard the news about quarterback Sam Darnold's official return from mononucleosis, the Jets running back reacted accordingly.
Sidelined since Sept. 8's 17-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills, Darnold's four-week recovery forced New York to go with backup Trevor Siemian and then third-string Luke Falk, who ascended atop the depth chart after Siemian's season-ending ankle injury in Sept. 15's 23-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
While the Jets suffered three straight losses of 16 points or more as they stumbled to their 0-4 start, including consecutive defeats on the road against the New England Patriots (30-14, Sept. 22) and Philadelphia Eagles (31-6, Oct. 6), Darnold's first game back since the season opener gives the offense hope before Sunday's home game with the Dallas Cowboys (3-2) backpedaling into MetLife Stadium.
"I was very excited," Bell said Wednesday of Darnold. "To get more players back on the roster that we need and that's truly valuable to the team, obviously, Sam's probably one of the most valuable players on the team at quarterback. So it's going to be fun. We got to go out there and practice with him again today and we're excited. I'm ready."
The Jets struggled on offense against the Bills, too, but Darnold -- who, in hindsight, battled through the initial signs of the mono onset -- and Bell complemented each other with 235 of the team's 263 total yards.
Darnold completed 28 of 41 passes (68.3 percent) and the Jets' only offensive touchdown -- a nine-yard pass to Bell with 7:01 left in the third quarter to go up 16-0 against the Bills -- on the early season.
Bell took 17 carries for 60 yards and caught six passes for 32 yards, amounting to 23 touches for 92 scrimmage yards, but has since been bottled up.
"He helps tremendously," Bell said of Darnold. "He's the quarterback. He's a guy who's, really, going to touch the ball every play, getting guys in position, throwing the ball downfield, just getting the playmakers the ball. So it's going to be fun. Obviously, he's going to make his fair share of plays. So it's going to be fun."
"It's gonna be fun"- Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 9, 2019
Le'Veon Bell is excited to get Sam Darnold back: pic.twitter.com/hJqrlxFtHP
In three games since Darnold's absence, Bell has averaged 18 rushes for 48.7 yards and seven receptions for 44.7 yards -- numbers he hopes can help the Jets get back to where they need to be in their offense under first-year head coach Adam Gase.
"He's a playmaker," Bell said of Darnold, who as a rookie went 239 for 414 (57.7 percent) with 17 touchdowns to 15 interceptions in 13 starts of 2018. "... We still haven't seen everything he can do yet. He's still a young player. He's only going to continue to get better. So I'm just ready for him to get in the game and make some plays. That's what he does. He's a special player. I've seen it all through camp, I've seen it in the preseason -- the first game -- so it's going to be fun."
Sam getting ready to make his return. pic.twitter.com/wMZZHmU1yv- Jets Videos (@snyjets) October 9, 2019