HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Right defensive end John Abraham, the New York Jets' most consistent pass rush threat, will miss the team's game at Pittsburgh this coming weekend after a Monday MRI examination confirmed that he sustained a sprained lateral collateral ligament in his right knee during Sunday's victory over the Houston Texans.
The Jets have not fixed a timetable for Abraham's return.
"It will probably be week to week," coach Herm Edwards acknowledged. "That's not saying he'll be back next week, either, but this week, I know he's out."
The injury could be a big blow to a defense that has been playing extremely well.
Abraham leads the team with 9½ sacks and has improved his play
against the run while maintaining his role as the team's best pass
rusher. The defense has allowed the fewest points in the league,
and shut out opponents in the second half in six games this season.
"When you lose a great player, you always suffer one way in the
fact that you don't have his ability to change games," Edwards
said. "So you compensate different ways. We lost him in the first
half and they did a great job in the second half of shutting them
out. You have to rally."
Injuries to the lateral collateral ligament typically do not require surgery but do mean the player must rest the knee. The recovery period for such injuries usually, at best, is a few weeks. The likelihood is that Abraham will miss more than just the Pittsburgh game.
Abraham suffered the injury in the first half of the game and initially thought that he had sprained his ankle.
Trainers taped his ankle, and Abraham returned to the field, but then determined the affected area was actually his knee.
A five-year veteran, and one of New York's four picks in the first round of the 2000 draft, Abraham has started all 12 games this season. The former South Carolina standout has 48 tackles and his sack total ranks fifth in the NFL.
The Jets have lost several players on defense this season, from
cornerback Ray Mickens and tackle Josh Evans for lengthy periods to
end Shaun Ellis for one game. But this is the biggest loss yet, and
comes when the Jets (9-3) play a crucial AFC game with the Steelers
"We've lost some guys, good players, but we don't make excuses
when players get hurt," Edwards said. "We just continue to play.
You continue to play and still try to win with players you have."
Abraham, 26, is in the final season of his original contract. Because of some past off-field incidents, the Jets have not yet made a strong push to extend his contract. Team officials all but acknowledged last week, though, that they will use the "franchise" designation next spring, if necessary, to retain Abraham for at least one more season.
Three-year veteran Bryan Thomas, another first-round pick, will move into the lineup at right end. The former Alabama-Birmingham star has just three sacks in 40 appearances but has played much better this season than in his first two NFL campaigns.
This will mark the fourth time in five years that Abraham has failed to play all 16 games. Last year, he missed eight games with a groin injury, and he missed most of his rookie season with a sports hernia.
Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.