- Associated Press - Friday, December 3, 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - The New York Jets will be without their defensive quarterback for at least one game.

Safety Jim Leonhard suffered what coach Rex Ryan called a “severe shin injury” Friday and will not play in New York’s game at New England on Monday night.

“That was a huge blow to us,” Ryan said. “He’s a huge part of what we do.”

Leonhard, who calls the defensive signals in the secondary, was injured during team drills _ which are closed to the media _ and had to be carted away the field. Ryan was unsure of the extent of the injury, saying he assumed there was a break, “but I don’t know. I just know it’s a severe injury.”

Ryan was also uncertain how long Leonhard will be sidelined beyond this week.

“We feel sorry for Jim, we feel terrible for Jim,” Ryan said. “But, we don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We know it’s a big loss, but we’ll be ready to move on on Monday without him.”

Eric Smith will replace Leonhard as the starting safety opposite Brodney Pool when the Jets (9-2) and Patriots (9-2) play for first place in the AFC East and the top record in the conference.

Leonhard was hurt when he collided with wide receiver Patrick Turner as the two went up for a ball late in practice, the Jets‘ last full session before their game at Foxborough.

“I just knew we ran into each other and he was in pain,” Turner said. “He was just grabbing his shin.”

Turner and other Jets said there was nothing extraordinary about the play to where they thought Leonhard was seriously hurt.

“It wasn’t the hardest collision,” Turner said.

“It was one of those collisions where you’re like, ‘OK, he’ll probably pop right back up. He’s a tough kid,’” safety James Ihedigbo said. “We just figured he’d be all right, that he just got banged up.”

Leonhard is third on the team with 66 tackles and has an interception and a fumble recovery this season, his second with New York.

“He’s the commander in chief back there, gets everybody lined up and communicates all kinds of different things,” Ihedigbo said. “He’s looked at as the quarterback of the defense.”

Smith is in his fifth season with the Jets and has started 18 games in his career, including the first three this year while Pool was sidelined.

“I’m going to prepare the same way I always do, but it’s going to be a big step taking over Jim’s job,” Smith said. “We’ve got confidence we’ll get it done.”

Leonhard also returns punts, ranking among the NFL leaders with an 11.3-yard average. Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said that duty will fall to several players, including Jerricho Cotchery, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson.

“We’ll put together whatever package best suits us,” Westhoff said.

Leonhard broke his right thumb in a game a year ago, but missed no time while playing with a cast.

“It is a damper, but the way this team is now, we don’t want to let Jim down,” Ryan said. “We are going to find a way to get it done. And, that’s what I’m banking on. Do I think we’ll win the game? Absolutely.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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