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Antonio Cromartie's knee injury much less serious than feared

Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets

Antonio Cromartie #31 of the New York Jets is tended to by team personal after an injury against the Cleveland Browns in the first half of a game at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2015 in East Rutherford, N.J. Credit: Jim McIsaac

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The towel draped over Antonio Cromartie's face seemed to say it all.

As the Jets cornerback was driven off the field Sunday at MetLife Stadium, his injured left leg outstretched on the back of a cart, his coach feared the worst. But on Monday, coach Todd Bowles expressed relief after an MRI revealed no ACL tear in Cromartie's left knee.

"Considering the way he went down, I was very relieved,'' he said. "It looked like it was an ACL and he was sitting over there with a towel on his head, I didn't know what happened. So I'm glad it wasn't [his ACL].''

Fortunately for the Jets, Cromartie only sprained his left knee and is "week to week." As of now, he hasn't been ruled out for Monday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts.

"I don't know what that means, whether it's this week or next week," Bowles said. "Until I see him running, I don't have a timetable on him."

Cromartie made an appearance at the facility Monday, speaking to Jets rookies about how to be a professional during one of their player development sessions. The veteran defensive back also had a Twitter message for Jet Nation: "I want to say Thank You to everyone for their prayers. Much love and respect. God is Good. God Bless you all."

Cromartie's MRI results certainly were good news, but there's a chance he could miss a game, or even more. He hasn't given up hope that he'll suit up soon. "He was saying that he can't miss any practices and he's going to try to be out there as soon as possible," rookie Leonard Williams said.

Cromartie has missed only one game in his 10-year career -- the final regular-season game of 2010, when Rex Ryan rested his starters against the Bills with a playoff berth already clinched.

Bowles said he won't "rush him back anyway" because of the Jets' defensive depth, and cornerback Buster Skrine agreed. "Our whole secondary is full of starters," he said.

With Cromartie sidelined, Skrine and Marcus Williams would have to shoulder more responsibility, but Bowles said both cornerbacks are versatile enough to play outside or in the slot. And though Williams isn't well-known, he has proved he can make plays.

"We had a board in our room of passes defended, interceptions during camp, and he was one of the guys at the top," Skrine said of Williams, who picked off Johnny Manziel in the Jets' 31-10 win over the Browns on Sunday. "So we expected him to do it. Maybe not outsiders because they haven't seen him play that much, but we expected him to go out there and ball out."

The Jets also received encouraging news about third-round pick Lorenzo Mauldin. The outside linebacker was released from Mount Sinai Hospital on Monday after suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter.

"Thanks to fans, family, friends prayers and Mount Sinai Hospital for their awesome TLC. I will be perfectly fine. The lord was with me. TY," Mauldin wrote on Twitter.

Bowles said he talked to Mauldin on Monday afternoon and the rookie was feeling "a little bit better."

"He's going to go home and rest," Bowles said. "Obviously, he's got to wear glasses and have some shades on for a while. We'll take it day by day, and if he's feeling good enough, he can go through [concussion] protocol and go from there."

That's encouraging, considering how devastating Mauldin's injury first appeared. After getting caught at the bottom of a pile during a Jets fumble return, he was slow to get up, and as he made it to his feet, he immediately fell forward. He remained motionless on the turf for several minutes and later was immobilized on a backboard and carted off -- a dramatic scene that cast a pall over the entire stadium.

The Jets initially announced that Mauldin had suffered head and neck injuries. But late Sunday night, they said he had a concussion and had feeling in his extremities. "It was good to hear that he wasn't as bad as everything appeared," Bowles said. "When you cart somebody off the field like that and they're not moving, immediately you think the worst."

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