The New York Jets put safety Jim Leonhard on injured reserve Saturday, ending the season for one of their defensive leaders a day after he broke his right leg during practice.
Doctors placed a stabilizing rod 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 from the hospital Sunday or Monday and expected to make a full recovery. He didn't have any damage to his fibula, ankle or knee.
"That was a huge blow to us," Jets coach Rex Ryan said after practice Friday. "He's a huge part of what we do."
The team didn't immediately fill Leonhard's roster spot.
Leonhard, who calls defensive signals in the Jets' secondary and returns punts, was injured during team drills when he collided with wide receiver Patrick Turner while going up for a ball. Trainers checked on Leonhard, who was carted from the field in the Jets' last full session before Monday night's game against New England Patriots.
"I just knew we ran into each other, and he was in pain," Turner said. "He was just grabbing his shin."
It's a major blow to the Jets' third-ranked defense, especially right before the showdown at AFC East co-leading New England. Leonhard will be replaced by Eric Smith opposite Brodney Pool in the starting defense, and Jerricho Cotchery, Santonio Holmes, Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson will assume the punt-return duties.
"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."
Leonhard is third on the team with 66 tackles, and he has an interception and a fumble recovery this season, his second with New York. He broke his right thumb during a game a year ago, but he didn't miss any time while playing with a cast.
Leonhard also is a personal favorite of Ryan, who brought the safety from Baltimore shortly after becoming the Jets' coach in January 2009.
"He's a good player, but they're a good defense," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Saturday. "They have a lot of good players. ... Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game. Every team has them, and everybody has to go through them and deal with them."
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 with an ankle injury.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.