NEW YORK (AP) - Jets safety Jim Leonhard was placed on injured reserve Saturday, ending the season for one of the team’s defensive leaders a day after he broke his right leg in practice.
A stabilizing rod was placed through Leonhard’s tibia during surgery Friday night at Morristown Memorial Hospital, located a few miles from the team’s training facility. The Jets announced that Leonhard is tentatively scheduled to be released Sunday or Monday, and is expected to make a full recovery. He had no damage to his fibula, ankle or knee.
“That was a huge blow to us,” a somber coach Rex Ryan said after practice Friday. “He’s a huge part of what we do.”
The team had no immediate corresponding roster move.
Leonhard, who calls defensive signals in the secondary and returns punts, was injured during team drills when he collided with wide receiver Patrick Turner. He was checked on by trainers and carted from the field.
It’s a major blow to the Jets’ third-ranked defense, especially right before a game at New England for first place in the AFC East on Monday night.
“He’s a good player, but they’re a good defense,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Saturday. “They have a lot of good players. After the first game when they lost Kris Jenkins in the opener against the Ravens, they showed that they’re a real good defense even without some of their key players. That’s part of it.
“Look, we’re out of lockers; we’re putting up temporary lockers. So, unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. Every team has them and everybody has to go through them and deal with them.”
Leonhard will be replaced by Eric Smith opposite Brodney Pool in the starting defense, while Jerricho Cotchery, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson will assume the punt return duties.
“I just knew we ran into each other and he was in pain,” Turner said. “He was just grabbing his shin.”
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 broke his right thumb in a game a year ago, but missed no time while playing with a cast. Leonhard is also a favorite of Ryan, who brought him from Baltimore shortly after he became the Jets coach in January 2009.
The hard-hitting 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.