For the second straight year, Jim Leonhard’s season has ended prematurely.
Leonhard suffered a torn patella tendon in his right knee in yesterday’s 37-10 win over the Chiefs, Rex Ryan confirmed today. It’s a tremendously big blow for the Jets since the safety is essentially the quarterback of their sixth-ranked defense and understands the scheme’s inner workings as well as anyone on the team.
Leonhard got injured in the second quarter moments after he intercepted Kansas City quarterback Tyler Palko. Chiefs wideout Steve Breaston awkwardly twisted Leonhard’s right leg as he was on the ground and attempting to get up and try to return the pick. He had to be helped off the field and was carted off to the locker room once he reached the sideline, banging the cart in frustration as he took that long ride to off the MetLife Stadium field.
Leonhard broke his right tibia just a little over a year ago in practice three days before the Jets were mauled 45-3 by the Patriots Dec. 6.
“It’s something that you feel absolutely terrible for him and knowing how he overcame that last injury and what that meant,” said Ryan, who’s unsure when Leonhard will have surgery. “This team means everything to Jim and his leadership is obviously going to be missed without question. He’s one of the guys that just elevates players around him. Everybody respects Jim and he’s definitely going to be missed."
Brodney Pool will take Leonhard’s spot in the starting lineup, but the Jets won’t be able to utilize the three-safety look they like to trot out. Ryan also said GM Mike Tannenbaum is expected to scour the landscape for some depth, most likely someone who would be able to help out in the long term.
"I want to thank everyone for the support," Leonhard wrote on his Twitter account. "We've been here before and came back stronger than ever. Things happen for a reason, I'll find it."
Leonhard is earning $2.075 million this season, the final year of the three-year, $5.8 million deal he inked once Ryan became the head coach in 2009. So it remains to be seen if the Jets bring him back after two consecutive season-ending injuries.
“Obviously, we know Jim is an outstanding player,” Ryan said. “There’s a business side of football, but we know Jimmy is a tremendous player. The thing about Jim is I know he is the hardest working guy around. So this is a setback, but this is not going to be the end for Jim Leonhard.
“This is a setback and obviously he’s not going to go out two years in a row how he wants -- and that’s holding the Vince Lombardi trophy. But I think he can still help us get there. His leadership, he’ll be around, [is] extremely positive and almost takes over a coaching roll right now.
“I don’t think Jim Leonhard’s done playing.”