MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Jets players would have felt for any teammate — or opponent — who suffered what looked like a potentially devastating injury.
But young safety Elijah Riley out of Newfield High School has made such an impression since signing with the Jets early last month that when he got hurt Sunday and was carted off with his neck immobilized, teammates felt as if they were watching an old friend.
"Very scary," linebacker C.J. Mosley said.
It appears Riley escaped without serious injury, according to coach Robert Saleh. Immediately after the Jets’ 31-24 loss to the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, he told reporters that Riley "checked out fine."
Saleh said Riley would travel back to New Jersey with the team on Sunday night.
"He’s got motion," the coach said.
That was evident even before Riley left the field. His feet were moving as he lay on his back while being attended to by a large team of medical professionals, and he raised his right arm as he was being carted away.
Riley appeared to hurt himself in a collision with teammate Kyle Phillips as they sought to tackle the Dolphins’ Duke Johnson on a screen pass in the third quarter.
There was a long delay while players from both teams watched, many kneeling and some praying. The pro-Dolphins crowd mostly stood quietly. CBS did not show replays of the incident, citing its graphic nature.
The Jets initially announced only that Riley had a neck injury and would not return.
Cornerback Bryce Hall called Riley "a warrior" who plays "100 miles an hour, full speed."
"That’s the worst part about playing this game," Hall said of the specter of devastating injuries.
Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa opened his postgame comments by saying, "Just want to express that my heart goes out to Elijah."
The Jets led 17-10 at the time of the incident. The Dolphins scored a touchdown on that drive, and on the next one. "We were a little bit down, but obviously, that’s not an excuse," Hall said.
Riley, who played at Army, was signed off the Eagles’ practice squad on Nov. 9 and quickly impressed teammates with his leadership and playing ability. He has been in the starting lineup since Nov. 22.
"He’s a very passionate player — very passionate," Mosley said. "I’ll just keep it at that. With everything he does. Practice, in the meeting room, on the field, off the field.
"When he first got here, you would’ve thought he’s been with us the whole time. That’s how quick he jelled with the guys and the [defensive backs], so we’re definitely praying for him."
Riley grew up in Port Jefferson and attended Jets training camps at Hofstra as a child.
Asked about putting on a Jets jersey for the first time, he told Newsday after his first start for the team, "It’s indescribable. I can’t put that into words, to be honest. It was everything that I hoped it would be."