FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In a stunning, unexpected blow, the New England Patriots will be without their most experienced cornerback for the 2010 season after eight-year veteran Leigh Bodden was placed on season-ending injured reserve Tuesday. The injury is a torn rotator cuff, according to a source close to Bodden.
The 28-year-old Bodden was projected to again start at right cornerback, where he tied for the team lead with five interceptions last season.
"I'm bummed," Bodden wrote Tuesday on his Twitter account. "I've been hitting bumps my whole career and always seem to get past [them]. This will be no different."
Without Bodden, the Patriots will now have one of the NFL's youngest cornerback tandems, with 2009 second-round draft choice Darius Butler the likely replacement for Bodden and 2010 first-round draft choice Devin McCourty projected to start on the left side.
Bodden, who was the team's steadiest performer at cornerback in 2009, was re-signed to a four-year, $22 million contract this offseason as a key piece in the team's free agent strategy. At 6-foot-1, 193 pounds, he plays a physical, fundamentally sound style in pass coverage and run support that has been lauded by the team's coaching staff.
Cincinnati Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco, for one, has called Bodden one of the toughest cornerbacks he's faced over his career. The two were set to square off again Sept. 12 when the Patriots host the Bengals in the season opener.
"You give me hell when we play," Ochocinco said to Bodden on Twitter. "I was looking forward to next week's game."
Bodden's injury is the latest to hit the Patriots, who have already placed six players on season-ending injured reserve, most notably starting left defensive end Ty Warren (hip).
With offensive lineman Nick Kaczur also dealing with a season-threatening back injury, and two-time Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins yet to report in a contract dispute, the Patriots have had some significant parts of their core chipped away.
Bodden had been sidelined by a knee injury earlier in training camp, which he had called a minor concern at the time. He played in his first preseason game last Thursday against the Rams.
On Monday, players seemed to be preparing for possible bad news on Bodden.
"It's a contact sport; things happen," safety Brandon Meriweather said. "You just have to put the trust in the people that are out there, and you have to move on."
The placement of Bodden on injured reserve was one of five moves the Patriots made to get down to the league-mandated 75-man roster limit. The club also placed defensive lineman Darryl Richard (foot) and safeties Josh Barrett (shoulder) and Bret Lockett (chest) on injured reserve, and waived rookie cornerback Terrence Johnson.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.