Jim Leonhard suffered what Jets coach Rex Ryan called a "severe shin injury" at the team's practice Friday, when he collided with teammate Patrick Turner during a drill. Leonhard was carted off the practice field and has already been ruled out for Monday night's critical AFC East showdown between the Jets and Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
Ryan did not offer a timetable for Leonhard's return, but multiple reports indicated that the Jets' starting safety broke his shin, which would almost certainly land him on injured reserve for the remainder of the year.
"It's going to be tough to replace Jim but we're fortunate. We have a lot of talent," Ryan told reporters after practice ended, according to the Jets' official website. "Next man who steps up, we expect him to stay at the same level, if not a higher level.
"Don't feel sorry for us. We're fine. Obviously this is a huge blow for our football team, but we're tough."
The Jets will likely start a combo of Brodney Pool and Eric Smith at the safety spots in Leonhard's absence, with Smith sliding over to fill Leonhard's strong safety position. Backup James Ihedigbo could also see more minutes. The timing of the injury -- about 72 hours before what is arguably the Jets' biggest game of the season -- obviously hurts. Tom Brady's had the Patriots' offense humming on all cylinders lately, and the loss of Leonhard only figures to open up New England's options further.
"Trust me, they're not feeling sorry for us," Ryan said of the Patriots. "We have enough players. We're going to find a way to get it done. That's what I'm banking on. Do I think we'll win the game? Absolutely."
As big as Leonhard's loss is defensively, it may be felt even more by the Jets' special teams. Leonhard is the team's punt returner and is averaging 11.3 yards per attempt this season.
"We've got Joe McKnight and Kyle Wilson. Jerricho Cotchery did it last year -- if it's windy up there, I know one thing, Jerricho will catch it," Ryan said. "Guys like Santonio Holmes have done it in the past, and (Antonio) Cromartie. We have a lot of options there."