FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP)New York Jets left tackle Duane Brown will miss the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens with a shoulder injury that could sideline him for at least a few weeks.
Coach Robert Saleh announced Friday the team was still gathering medical information on Brown’s shoulder, but acknowledged there’s a chance the 37-year-old offensive lineman could end up on injured reserve. That would sideline him for at least four games.
George Fant will slide from right tackle to left and start Sunday in Brown’s place. Rookie Max Mitchell, a fourth-round draft pick, will start at right tackle.
”Him going to the left side this week,” Saleh said of the versatile Fant, ”he’s making it very easy for this transition to happen.”
Saleh said he thought Brown was injured in practice Monday. After an off day, Brown didn’t practice Wednesday or Thursday – and wasn’t at the facility Thursday during the practice session because he was having his shoulder evaluated.
Brown was signed to a two-year, $22 million contract last month after right tackle Mekhi Becton was lost for the season because of a knee injury. Fant, who was initially slated to start at left tackle, slid over to the right side after Brown was signed. Brown has played left tackle all 14 of his previous NFL seasons.
”The guy moves around like he’s 29, so he’s got a lot of life left in his body,” Saleh said of Brown, who was brought along slowly after signing with the Jets. ”You can always play the hindsight game, but with Duane there were no indicators.”
Fant, who had offseason knee surgery, was limited the first two days of practice but Saleh said he would be fine to play.
Brown being sidelined caps a rough week of injury news for the Jets, who announced Wednesday that quarterback Zach Wilson would not return until the Jets’ game at Pittsburgh on Oct. 2 at the earliest while recovering from a bone bruise and torn meniscus in his right knee. Joe Flacco is starting Sunday in Wilson’s place.
While Fant moving to left tackle shouldn’t be much of an adjustment, having Mitchell start on the right side in his NFL debut will be. Conor McDermott would normally have been the natural choice, but he is still recovering from a preseason ankle injury that limited him in practice this week.
”If you’re on an NFL roster, whether you’re on the practice squad or not, you’re one play away,” Saleh said. ”I mean, that’s how quickly it can happen. And I said it before: Max is much further along than we thought he’d be at this point. So we’re very confident he’ll be able to step in and do his job.”
When the 6-foot-6, 299-pound Mitchell was drafted in April out of Louisiana, he was initially considered a developmental-type player. The injuries along the offensive line sped that up.
”We think his acceleration is going to go even faster because there’s nothing like getting reps in the NFL and getting baptized early in your career,” Saleh said. ”We have a lot of faith in him. He’s a fantastic athlete, he’s very smart. He just has to learn the nuances of the NFL game and the game within the game – when it comes to the run game and the pass game and all the different things that are asked in that 1-on-1 battle with the defensive linemen.”
Meanwhile, Fant has been flip-flopped from left tackle to right and back to left all since training camp began in late-July. He hadn’t practiced until this week on the left side since Brown was signed in mid-August.
”I’m sure it’s frustrating for George,” Saleh said. ”Everyone just wants to settle into their job, but credit to George. He’s an uber-athlete, he’s got great versatility and he’s always been a team-guy first.”
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