The New York Jets placed the wide receiver on injured reserve Friday with an ailing left knee that has swelled during the last few weeks.
The speedy Hill had just 24 catches for 342 yards and a touchdown in what many expected could be a breakout year. Instead, Hill dealt with the balky knee all season and it affected him coming in and out of breaks on routes.
"He just wasn't right for the last couple of weeks," coach Rex Ryan said Friday. "He would gut through it and he could go out and participate, but he just wasn't the same guy. This wasn't the guy that we drafted that, ran the 4.25 time in the 40."
A second-round pick out of Georgia Tech last year, Hill had one catch for 2 yards in his last four games. He sat out the Jets' 37-27 win against Oakland last Sunday.
"I didn't think it was going to end this way," Hill said. "I thought I was going to ride it out until the end of the season, but coach noticed that things weren't right and he didn't want to mess me up for future things."
The Jets elevated wide receiver Saalim Hakim, the younger brother of former NFL receiver Az-Zahir Hakim, from the practice squad to take Hill's spot on the roster. Ryan indicated Hakim could help on kickoff returns.
Hill, the 13th Jets player to be placed on IR, said there are no plans for him to have surgery on the knee, adding he needs to strengthen the muscles around it. However, Ryan wasn't sure about that.
"I think right now, it's about resting and getting off his legs and treatment and things before you do surgery," Ryan said. "Is surgery an option? I'm not sure. Certainly, I would think that's a possibility."
It's the second straight season Hill has seen his season end early because of a knee issue. Last year, he missed the final three games after spraining the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and needed surgery.
Ryan also indicated that both of Hill's knees had swelling during the season.
"There's obviously something going on in both his knees," Ryan said, "but it's not like it's an ACL or something like that. But again, I would not rule out surgery."
Hill said his knee is "actually getting better" and doesn't feel pain, but rather stiffness that impacted his production.
"I think it did a little bit, especially later on (in the season)," Hill said. "I've been doing a lot of pounding on it, so it did a good amount later on."
Hill said general manager John Idzik told him to make sure he remains in meetings because the team has "a plan" for him.
"I'm kind of happy for my future now because I know that things will definitely get better, especially with the strength around my knee," Hill said. "I'm just taking this as a positive stepping stone and trying to move on."
NOTES: CB Antonio Cromartie was listed as questionable for the game at Carolina after being limited in practice for the second straight day while he continues the NFL's concussion protocol. He was injured when he collided with teammate Ed Reed last Sunday against Oakland. Ryan said Cromartie's availability Sunday could be a game-time decision. ... TE Kellen Winslow (knee) was limited in practice, but was expected to play. WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring) was a full participant after being limited the previous two days.