The positive emotion of defeating Indianapolis and the determined optimism of preparing for New England dimmed just a bit today when head coach Rex Ryan told reporters that 12th-year right tackle Damien Woody has been placed on injured reserve with a left Achilles’ tendon injury.
“It’s really unfortunate,” Ryan said at his Wednesday news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center, now under way. “He played almost the whole game [at Indianapolis]. I mentioned Monday that he was a little wobbly after the game. There was a reason. It wasn’t his knee. It was his Achilles’ tendon, so he’ll be placed on IR today.”
Woody did not practice Tuesday and was not seen around the complex today. Ryan said he thinks Woody will be having surgery on the Achilles’ later this afternoon.
This will be the second time in two months that the Jets have lost a starter in the week before playing the Patriots on the road. The first time, safety Jim Leonhard broke his leg midway through the Friday practice before the teams met on Monday night, Dec. 6. At least this time the Jets have some advance notice on losing Woody and have worked Wayne Hunter into the equation in the past month.
“More than I can put into words,” Hunter said about how much playing against the Steelers, Bears and Bills the last three weeks of the regular season have helped him for this playoff assignment. “I went against some great defenses, which helped my confidence, and I found my rhythm.”
Among those who’ve appreciated Hunter’s play is the fellow in the No. 6 jersey whose open side Hunter will try to protect at all costs Sunday.
“When he’s gotten his opportunities, he’s taken over and he hasn’t missed a beat,” QB Mark Sanchez said. “I’m really proud of the way he’s played. He’s into it, he’s excited, he smiles, he’s having fun, he’s a tough competitor. I’m fired up for him, I couldn’t be happier for him. And then to see Woody out, it kills you so it’s a bittersweet feeling. They’re both great players and tough competitors, so I feel safe either way.”
Woody played almost the entire AFC Wild Card Game in Indianapolis on Saturday night. He was on the field for the first play of the final drive of the game, the 9-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Braylon Edwards. Woody jogged behind the play and appeared OK. But the replay official called for a review of the play, and after the few minutes it took for referee Gene Steratore to complete his review, Wayne Hunter came in at RT for the last three plays of that drive before Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal.
“I didn’t know it was Wayne’s Achilles’ until the next day,” Hunter said. “My whole focus was to back him up at tackle in case his knee went out. When I went in after that one play, I just assumed it was his knee, maybe his brace, which had been slipping on him during the game.”
Hunter will again line up next to right guard Brandon Moore, and Moore today agreed that it was “a blessing in disguise” that the two got to work together for a half-season of practices and all or part of five games.
“It’s sad news about Woody, but I feel comfortable with Wayne there,” Moore said. “I can go into this game confident in what he does, confident in myself and confident in the game plan.”
Moore has his own injury issue this week after he tweaked his back while in the weightroom. He didn’t practice during team drills today, and that might sound alarm bells for Jets fans who know that the right side of the Jets line will often have to try to neutralize perennial Pro Bowl 3-4 DE Vince Wilfork. But Ryan and Moore both said not to worry.
“It happened yesterday, it got a little worse as the day went on, and then this morning it was pretty tight,” Moore said. But he added that this has happened a few times already this season and that the back has always loosened up as the week has gone on. “I should feel a lot better tomorrow. … It’s a non-issue, really.”
Elsewhere on the Injury Front
Brad Smith is the other frontline player with an injury concern. He pulled a groin muscle while rushing Colts punter Pat McAfee in the first quarter. Smith also did not practice today.
“We expect Brad to play,” Ryan said. “If he doesn’t play, obviously you’re not going to have the Wildcat. He is such a threat back there in that role.” Ryan also said if Smith is available and “100 percent,” he’ll be the main kickoff returner rather than Antonio Cromartie.
Smith stopped by his locker with his usual smile and positive outlook, saying that this pull is just a little bit of adversity that has to be gotten over.
“I’ll take everything in stride,” he said, “and try to make the most of it.”
The Jets also listed WR Patrick Turner, who is being elevated to the active roster from the practice squad to fill Woody’s roster spot, as DNP with an illness; CB Darrelle Revis, WR Santonio Holmes and S James Ihedigbo as limited at practice, and seven others as practicing full. The Jets’ complete injury list can be found here.
The Patriots list nine players on their report, with DE Myron Pryor (back) not practicing and six — LB Tully Banta-Cain (groin), WR Deion Branch (knee), DE Jermaine Cunningham (calf), TE Aaron Hernandez (hip), DE Eric Moore (Hamstring) and T Sebastian Vollmer (shin) — as limited.
Tags: Damien Woody, Gillette Stadium, Jim Leonhard, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Wayne Hunter
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