Source: Eric Smith sprains MCL

CORTLAND, N.Y. -- New York Jets safety Eric Smith, a key backup and a valuable special teams player, sprained the MCL in his left knee Friday night and likely will miss the remainder of the preseason, a league source confirmed Saturday.

Smith, hurt while covering a punt in the second quarter of the Jets' 17-6 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, underwent an MRI and had X-rays taken for knee and hip injuries.

After the game, the team announced that the X-rays were negative and that Smith was day to day. The Jets provided no update Saturday.

Smith's hip, it turns out, is fine, but his knee sustained a medium sprain, the source said. Smith had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee after last season.

"I don't think its too serious," Smith said after the game.

Smith had started throughout most of training camp, but he didn't start in the preseason opener Friday night. Newcomers Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, both newcomers to the Jets' system, instead got the nod, with coach Rex Ryan explaining he wanted to get them accustomed to working together.

Bell and Landry were projected as the opening-day starters before Smith's injury, but Smith still figures to be a contributor on defense. Early in the game, the Jets used a "Big Nickel" package, featuring all three safeties. Smith also plays a number of roles on special teams.

Suddenly, the Jets are thin at safety.

The backups are rookies Josh Bush and Antonio Allen.

Another concern is Landry's recent history with injuries. An Achilles tendon problem caused him to miss 15 games the past two seasons with the Washington Redskins. The Jets have cut down Landry's practice time, bringing him along slowly as he prepares for the regular season.

If the Jets are concerned about Smith's injury lingering into the regular season, they might have to sign a veteran safety. Brodney Pool, who played the past two seasons with the Jets, was cut last week by the Dallas Cowboys and remains available.

Former Jet Jim Leonhard, a longtime Rex Ryan favorite, signed last week with the Denver Broncos.

The New York Daily News first reported Smith's injury.