For the last several weeks, Jets right tackle Damien Woody has been limited or unable to practice because of a right knee injury, and in Sunday's 10-6 loss to the Dolphins, the 12th-year veteran felt something wrong within the first couple of plays of the game but didn't come out until after the Jets' second offensive series.
"It happened well before that," Woody said. "I just tried to play through it and it just got to a certain point where I couldn't do it anymore."
He had an MRI on Monday and is planning to have arthroscopic surgery on Wednesday.
"Damien won't play this week," head coach Rex Ryan said of the Jets' game Sunday at Pittsburgh. "I'm not sure if he'll be ready for Chicago or not."
Brandon Moore, who plays right guard alongside Woody, will perhaps miss him most. The duo combined to form a pivotal element of the Jets' No. 1-ranked rushing offense in 2009 and have helped backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene run for a total of 1,497 yards this season.
"It's a huge blow. Damien's a starter and one of the top tackles in this league," Moore said. "Wayne is very capable of coming in. I've practiced with him the last three weeks and he's been doing well. The only thing we want to do this week is really exaggerate communication in practice, so we don't have any breakdowns during the game."
With outside linebacker James Harrison and company up this week, it will be all hands on deck in terms of replacing Woody, and the task at RT will likely fall on Hunter's broad shoulders. This isn't the first injury that the Jets have sustained this season, as replacements have had to perform after nose tackle Kris Jenkins, outside linebacker Calvin Pace and safety Jim Leonhard all sustained injuries.
"That's why football is the ultimate team sport," Woody said. "Guys get hurt, other guys have to step up. This has happened many a time. A guy goes down and other guys have to step up. I have confidence in Wayne and all those guys that they'll go out and get the job done."
One of the larger presences in the locker room, Woody has an unmistakable impact on the Green & White and will make an attempt to help in whatever ways he can. Since he has been unable to practice the past few weeks, his fellow offensive linemen replaced his locker name tag that said "Woody" with "Waldo," the famous children's book character. Since his full focus will be on rehabbing, he still won't be at practice, but wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery believes Woody can still help the team during the December stretch run.
"His presence will be around," Cotchery said. "The caliber of player that you're losing — that makes it tough. But his presence is going to be around and he's going to be able to help the guys throughout the offensive line. We're going to make sure we keep him around to help out."
At 9-4, the Jets can control their own playoff destiny with wins, and the obvious goal would be to win out in the road games at Pittsburgh and Chicago and then the season finale at home against the Bills. If the Jets are fortunate enough to rack up some wins during the holiday season, they may find themselves in the playoffs for a second straight year and Woody could potentially rejoin the team.
"It's too early to tell right now," Woody said. "It's all about how I react to the rehab, but I'm going to definitely push to get back as soon as possible."