FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Rodney Harrison leads the Patriots defense with a loud voice. For the second straight season, his teammates may not hear him barking out instructions for a long time.

His impressive comeback from a devastating left knee injury that limited him to three games last season was derailed by a shoulder injury in last Sunday’s 27-20 loss to Indianapolis.

New England coach Bill Belichick said Wednesday the strong safety would miss Sunday’s home game against the New York Jets.

“We all hope he’ll be back out there soon,” Belichick said without specifying the nature of the injury or a likely timetable.

It was a broken right shoulder blade that won’t require surgery, according to The Boston Globe, which cited a league source. In 1999, Harrison missed 10 of San Diego’s last 11 games with a fractured left shoulder.

He was injured on the third play of Indianapolis’ first offensive series when he tackled Marvin Harrison after a 44-yard completion and landed on his right side. The team first said his return to the game was probable but he missed the rest of it.

The other starting safety, Eugene Wilson, has missed four of the last five games with a hamstring injury and is listed as questionable for Sunday. Without him and Harrison, the likely starters would be Artrell Hawkins and Chad Scott, almost exclusively a cornerback during his previous eight NFL seasons.

Playing cornerback “is like a track meet every down,” Scott said. “Safety is more communicating, getting people lined up and being in the right place at the right time.”

After Harrison was hurt last season, five players started the next seven games at his position before Hawkins took over.

“If I’m playing with Rodney, I let Rodney make the majority of checks because this is Rodney’s team,” Hawkins said. “I see some of the things that he does and I try to imitate or mimic some of that stuff because if you sit down and watch players as good as Rodney at the position, you’re obviously going to pick something up.”

The Patriots may be better equipped to handle his absence because they did it last year. And Harrison already showed his desire to come back after his long rehabilitation from his knee injury.

“He’s a pretty tough player mentally,” Belichick said.

But how will they do without their fifth leading tackler? He also has one sack, an interception and a forced fumble to help New England finish the first half of the season at 6-2.

“We deal with these things all the time,” said cornerback Ellis Hobbs, who has played much of the season after breaking his wrist. “This team is not built around one player.”

Of the remaining eight opponents, four have a 2-6 record and Chicago, at 7-1, is the only one with a winning mark.

Harrison’s latest injury coming after he worked hard to return from his previous one evoked more sympathy than normal.

“You never like to see anybody go down,” linebacker Mike Vrabel said, “but a guy that was coming off an injury that he had worked so hard (to overcome) and was in there. It wasn’t like he was just in there half the time. He was in there for every snap.”

Belichick said he hadn’t talked with Harrison about his injury in 1999.

“I wasn’t with him in ’99,” he said. “We’ve seen plenty of cases in this league where players have similar injuries and they’re out different lengths of time.”

Harrison is definitely out Sunday, so Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery, the Jets two top receivers, won’t have to brace themselves for his hard hits after they catch passes.

“He’s a great leader,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said with a smile. “I remember when we played when he was in San Diego. He was a dirty player then. Now we love him.

“Hopefully, he’ll be back sooner rather than later.”

AP-ES-11-08-06 1722EST


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