Bill Kostroun
August 31, 2015

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Leonard Williams didn't even realize he was injured at first.

Then, the New York Jets rookie defensive lineman crouched on the sideline and a sharp pain shot through the back of his right knee.

''It kind of scared me,'' Williams recalled Monday, ''so I just told the trainers about it.''

It turns out Williams only strained a muscle behind his knee in the first half of the Jets' 28-18 preseason victory over the Giants on Saturday night.

An MRI on Sunday revealed no cartilage damage, relieving Williams and anxious Jets fans who feared the worst for the No. 6 overall pick out of Southern California.

''I'll definitely be ready for Week 1,'' a confident Williams declared.

Williams was told by doctors that his recovery should take about five to seven days, and he expects to be able to practice sometime next week. The Jets open the regular season on Sept. 13 at home against Cleveland - giving him two weeks to rest and heal.

He wore a black wrap around the knee during practice, and spent practice stretching and working in the trainer's area. Williams said he also ran on an anti-gravity treadmill.

''When I see him running (on the field), I'll feel a lot better,'' coach Todd Bowles said when asked of Williams' availability for Week 1. ''He's walking pretty good, and he's in good spirits, so I'm hopeful.''

It was unclear exactly when Williams was injured, but he said a player rolled into the back of his leg during a pass rush. He was limping very slightly as he walked behind the end zone and to the Jets' locker room after the Giants kicked off following a touchdown with 3:53 left in the first half.

He never returned to the sideline after halftime, and was taken to the X-ray room at MetLife Stadium.

''That's when I was getting a little nervous,'' he said.

The X-rays were negative, and an MRI confirmed that Williams' injury was nowhere near as bad as it initially seemed.

''There's always urgency when I'm injured to hurry up and get back on the field,'' Williams said. ''I don't like watching my teammates practice and not being able to practice with them.''

Williams is expected to be a major part of Bowles' defense, and had a breakout performance in the second preseason game against Atlanta with 1 1/2 sacks, including a safety.

He will likely start at defensive end in place of Sheldon Richardson, who is suspended for the first four games of the regular season after violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Richardson could face additional discipline from the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy, stemming from resisting arrest and traffic charges stemming from his arrest in Missouri in July.

Richardson's attorney entered a plea of not guilty in St. Charles County, near St. Louis, on Monday, but the case will be back in court on Oct. 5.

Even without Richardson for at least four games, the Jets' defensive line is expected to be one of their strengths - as long as Williams and fellow defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson are healthy.

Wilkerson missed about three weeks of practices while dealing with a hamstring injury before returning last week. He played against the Giants, and Bowles said Wilkerson had no setbacks.

''He felt good,'' Bowles said. ''I mean, he was healthy.''

NOTES: Several veterans were held out of practice to rest, including WR Brandon Marshall, RG Willie Colon, LG James Carpenter and LB Calvin Pace. ... WR Eric Decker was not at practice while dealing with a ''personal issue,'' Bowles said. Decker's wife, country artist Jessie James, is due to give birth to the couple's second child any day. ... Bowles said ''some'' of the team's starters will play in the preseason finale against Philadelphia on Thursday night, but not QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Bowles hadn't decided whether rookie Bryce Petty would start, saying he needs to see veterans Matt Flynn and Josh Johnson. ... Bowles acknowledged it's ''possible'' RB Stevan Ridley could start the season on the physically unable to perform list. He is still recovering from torn ligaments in his right knee last October while with New England.

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