Jets: Abraham is likely to miss 3 games
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
BY DAVE HUTCHINSON
Though coach Herman Edwards ruled defensive end John Abraham out for only this Sunday's game against the Steelers with a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee, he'll be out at least two weeks and probably three, according to two people with knowledge of the severity of Abraham's injury.
Abraham's injury is similar to the one suffered by Jacksonville quarterback Byron Leftwich this season. He was out three weeks. Abraham will be re-examined in two weeks, one person said.
"He's out this week," Edwards said yesterday. "It'll probably be week to week. I'm not saying he'll be back next week, either. But at this point, this week we know he's out."
Edwards said that surgery hasn't been discussed. Abraham underwent an MRI yesterday.
Abraham, who is to the defense what quarterback Chad Pennington is to the offense, is expected to be back for the playoffs. Bryan Thomas, who has been a disappointment since being selected 22nd overall in 2002 out of Alabama-Birmingham, will replace Abraham in the starting lineup. He has just three career sacks in 41 career starts.
The Jets are concerned enough about Abraham's injury that they are considering signing a veteran defensive end. Among those who have been discussed are Joey Evans and Matt Walters, two players they released in training camp.
Abraham, who has the third-most sacks in the NFL with 9 1/2, leads a defense that tops the NFL in fewest points allowed (175) and ranks sixth in the league in overall defense, the Jets' highest overall ranking this late in the season since week 14 of 1998.
The Jets (9-3) play the 11-1 Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field. Pittsburgh, led by rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, has won 10 straight games. The Jets are 0-5 against the Steelers in their history on the road. Their all-time mark against the Steelers is 2-14.
"It (losing Abraham) is going to hurt," defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson said. "He's a Pro Bowl player. I'd like to believe, though, that we have some guys who throughout the year have been able to get in there and do their thing, namely Bryan. Bryan has a chance now to step up."
Thomas, who had a school-record 35 career sacks at UAB, battled an array of personal problems in his first two seasons, including an assault charge by a former girlfriend and bad eating habits that caused him to lose weight as a rookie. Last season the 6-4, 266-pounder started 10 games in place of an injured Abraham (groin) and managed just one sack.
This season Thomas, who played well against the Ravens in place of an injured Shaun Ellis (groin) three weeks ago, has shown vast improvement this season. In 10 games (two starts), he has 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks. Against Baltimore, he had seven tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks, matching his total in his previous 39 career games.
"He's a much more mature player than his first couple of years and he took a lot of grief," Edwards said. "Just being older and understanding what it takes to play in this league, he's done a great job. He really has. ... Mentally he's a lot tougher. He knows what's expected out of him."
Rookie seventh-round pick Trevor Johnson will also get increased playing time. He had four tackles against the Ravens while splitting time with Thomas.
Abraham, a fifth-year pro who becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season, was injured when his knee got tangled up with defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson while fighting off a block late in the second quarter. He had his knee examined and returned for a play, but he left again and didn't return.
Henderson said he'll use more of his "Buccaneer" defense, a package that includes three down linemen and two linebackers and three down linemen and four linebackers. He also said he'll play Robertson at defensive end at times.
Abraham is the fourth key defensive player the Jets have lost to injury this season. Veteran nickel back Ray Mickens (knee) and defensive tackle Josh Evans (back) are on injured reserve and out for the season. Linebacker Victor Hobson (high ankle sprain) has missed two games and may sit out the Steelers game. Rookie cornerback Derrick Strait missed seven games with a foot fracture.
"We have a bunch of young players," Edwards said. "With our players, they all play. They never make excuses when a guy's not on the field. A guy gets hurt, another guys goes in and continues to play. They're all expected to play when they go on the football field."