FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - -- The Jets, riding high in the wake of their surprising 3-2 start, have received a double dose of unwanted news regarding two of their top players.
The NFL suspended tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. for four games Friday for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs. The Jets also said cornerback Antonio Cromartie is questionable for Sunday's home game against the Steelers after dropping to the ground with a non-contact knee injury in practice Thursday.
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Winslow, who leads the Jets with 17 receptions, was excused from practice on Friday, and coach Rex Ryan declined to go into any detail regarding why he wasn't there. The league's suspension announcement came several hours after practice ended.
Winslow, in a statement from a publicist, said the news that he had tested positive for a banned substance "came as a huge surprise to me."
"I have investigated all possible sources since learning of the positive test, including possible medical causes, but frustratingly, I do not know the source," he said. "I do not take supplements that list any banned ingredients, but the NFL policy is very strict, so I am accountable for the results."
Winslow has been dealing with a knee injury all season, and it kept him out of practice all week. When Ryan was pressed about Winslow's unexplained absence, he hinted that the team might have to look in another direction for help at tight end.
"Guys, we got to look at it this way: We have a really good tight end in Jeff Cumberland," Ryan said when pressed about Winslow's absence. "The guy's a young stud tight end."
Winslow won't be eligible to play until Nov. 17 in Buffalo.
The Jets hope they have Cromartie back at full strength by then after what they described as a fluke injury. But the way Cromartie fell without getting hit during the goal-line drill left Ryan thinking about possible worst-case scenarios.
"To be honest with you," he said, "it was one of those hold-your-breath-type deals."
In an effort to see if Cromartie can recover to the training staff's satisfaction, Ryan said the Jets "will give him every benefit of the doubt" and wait until the last minute before they set their roster on Sunday.
Ryan described the injury as a hyperextension and said the team expects him to recover in due time.
"What happened was he just changed directions and he went straight down," Ryan said. "His knee gave, [he] went straight down and my initial reaction, obviously it wasn't good. You're thinking, oh, great.
"It's unbelievable because a guy like him who is in phenomenal shape, you're not thinking he's ever going to get hurt. He never takes a play off and there he is on the ground."
Complicating matters, rookie cornerback Dee Milliner was ruled out for the third straight game with a hamstring injury. If Cromartie can't play, the two starting cornerbacks are expected to be Kyle Wilson and Darrin Walls.
Wilson declined to comment about a possible increased role, saying he will speak after the game.
"You know Cro's one of the best corners in the NFL," Walls said. "If he can't go, it's going to be unfortunate to not have him. But I think me, Kyle, Ellis [Lankster] and Tru will treat the day like any other day. It's our job to be ready."