FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Veteran New York Jets linebacker Bryan Thomas is out for the season after suffering a torn left Achilles tendon in Sunday night's 34-17 loss at Baltimore, and replacing him won't be easy.
"I don't understand it but those things keep popping up," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "That's going to be a huge loss to us, obviously."
Right tackle Damien Woody suffered an Achilles injury late last season. He was later cut and retired in August. Tight end Jeff Cumberland tore his right Achilles tendon in the Jets' Week 3 loss to Oakland.
It can take anywhere from six months to a full year to recover from an Achilles tear, according to Dr. Phillip Kwong, a foot and ankle surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles who has not examined Thomas' specific injury.
"The Achilles tendon is the cable that connects the calf muscle to the heel and controls the stability of the knee and ankle," Kwong said.
It's tricky to reconnect the cable so that it has the right tension level for explosive movement that players like Thomas need to perform at a high level. Trying to rush back from the injury can cause it to re-rupture.
The 6-foot-4, 265-pound Thomas is in the last year of his contract with the Jets and will be a free agent next season. The injury will affect his next contract, if he can rehabilitate in time to be ready for the 2012 training camp.
"It's a tough situation for Bryan Thomas going into free agency with an injury," said Woody. "And he's an older player, too, so teams are probably going to sit back and wait."
Still, Thomas is one of the more versatile players on the Jets defense. Ryan said that he wasn't going to anoint a new starter just yet, but would incorporate several players including Josh Mauga, Jamaal Westerman, concussed player Garrett McIntyre and perhaps even Aaron Maybin.
"We have options here," Ryan said.
But Ryan didn't rule out the possibility that general manager Mike Tannenbaum could try to seek out an available veteran.
"Losing Bryan is obviously huge for our defense," Jim Leonhard said. "He's one of those unsung guys that does a lot of dirty work, gets a lot of the jobs that requires some thinking and require an intelligent player. Losing him, it probably won't be just one guy. It might be multiple guys that have to step into that role. and we feel like we've got guys that have made those plays and can make those plays for us."
Also, Linebacker Garrett McIntyre suffered a concussion in the game at Baltimore, and will be day to day.
The Jets have had trouble when replacing injured veterans with less-experienced players. When center Nick Mangold went out with a high-ankle sprain in Week 2, rookie Colin Baxter was tapped to fill the gap and has struggled. Now that the Jets are 2-2 and heading to New England for the first division game of the season Sunday, replacing Thomas is a priority.
"Veterans, guys have been through it before, generally the consistency is there," Leonhard said. "Whereas with the younger players, a lot of time they make the same types of plays, but they're a little inconsistent up and down and that's the challenge."
Jane McManus covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.