FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Antonio Cromartie heard a pop in his knee, a sickening sound he thought signaled the end of his season.
That's why the New York Jets cornerback was stunned to learn from an MRI on Monday that he had "just" a sprained left knee and no ligament damage.
"You think of the worst," Cromartie said Wednesday, "and you get a better outcome."
Cromartie was injured — "something freaky that happened," he said — midway through the second quarter Sunday in New York's season-opening 31-10 win over Cleveland. His knee buckled on a non-contact play, and Cromartie clutched his knee as trainers came out to check on him. He needed help to the sideline and didn't put any weight on his left leg. He was later carted to the locker room, a towel draped over his head and wondering if he'd be able to play again.
"It felt the same way it did when I tore my ACL the first time," he said, referring to an injury at Florida State 10 years ago. "I'm blessed that it wasn't."
Now, Cromartie is focused on getting back on the field — and he's not going to rush things.
While he hasn't been ruled out of the Jets' next game at Indianapolis on Monday night, Cromartie wants to make sure he's completely healthy before he lines up again opposite Darrelle Revis in New York's secondary.
"I think at the end of the day, you end up hurting the team rather than going out and trying to help the team," Cromartie said. "If I don't feel that I'm healthy enough to play, I'm not going to play."
Cromartie said his knee was still feeling a bit sore, but was walking around the locker room with very little sign of the injury.
Coach Todd Bowles said Cromartie was "week-to-week" and the team would know more as this week goes on as to whether he might be able to play Monday night.
"That will be my determination, not his," Bowles said.
Cromartie has never missed a game because of injury in his nine-plus seasons in the NFL, but that streak is now in jeopardy. That was also the case two years ago because of an ailing hip that bothered him during training camp, but he kept playing through it and had a rough season — despite making the Pro Bowl.
"I'm learning my lesson from 2013, when I probably should've sat out a couple of weeks with my hip injury," Cromartie said. "You take a lot of pride in (the streak), and you want to go out and start and continue to play and not miss a game. But, me being a 10-year corner, you have to think a little smarter about what you're doing."
If Cromartie sits against Andrew Luck and the Colts, Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams would likely be used to fill in, as they did against the Browns.
Skrine, signed in the offseason as a free agent, played on the outside in Cromartie's spot Sunday in the Jets' base defense. When New York went to its sub packages, Skrine went to the nickel spot — his normal position — and Williams played on the outside. Both played well against the Browns, including Williams intercepting Johnny Manziel in the third quarter.
"He does all the right things and he's a young player and he's getting better," Bowles said of Williams. "So, we have complete confidence in him."
NOTES: Rookie LB Lorenzo Mauldin, recovering from a concussion, was not at practice and is going through the NFL's protocol for head injuries. Bowles had no timetable on when Mauldin might return to the practice field. ... WR Jeremy Kerley, the team's leading receiver in 2012 and 2013, played just one offensive snap Sunday after not working with the starters for much of training camp. He said he doesn't regret signing a four-year, $15.4 million contract last season — under a regime that has since been fired and might have had bigger plans for him in the offense. "At the time, that's how I felt," Kerley said. "Not to say there's not a lot of love now for the coaching staff and for the GM, (but) the guys who were here last year, I didn't know they were going to be gone. ... I wanted to be here. I still want to be here, so that would've had little to nothing to do with my decision."
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