Strong safety Rodney Harrison, arguably the most irreplaceable player in an already-decimated New England secondary, suffered a broken right scapula in the Patriots' loss to the Colts on Sunday night. Harrison is expected to miss at least a few weeks.
The nature of the injury, about which team officials have been typically cryptic, was first reported by the Boston Globe on Tuesday night. A league source and a source close to Harrison confirmed the report for ESPN.com.
Such injuries typically do not require surgery. There is, however, no timetable for Harrison's return to the lineup.
On Wednesday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Harrison would
be out Sunday against the New York Jets, although he stopped short of giving specifics about the injury.
The 13-year veteran sustained the injury just six minutes into the game, when he tackled Colts' wide receiver Marvin Harrison after a 44-yard catch and fell hard on his right side. Harrison did not return and, while the Patriots acknowledged he had been hurt, they did not elaborate.
It was erroneously reported by some media outlets on Monday that Harrison has suffered rotator cuff damage.
Teams do not have to list their injured players, and the status of each of them for this weekend's games, until Wednesday. The Patriots host the New York Jets on Sunday.
The injury to Harrison is likely to have coach Bill Belichick scrambling again to cobble together a secondary unit, something the Patriots have been forced to do the past two seasons because of losses in the defensive back line. The backup to Harrison is Artrell Hawkins, but he has been playing at free safety the last several weeks. Starting free safety Eugene Wilson has missed four of the last five games because of a strained hamstring.
Harrison, 33, played in only three games in 2005 before suffering a catastrophic knee injury, one in which he tore three ligaments. He missed most of the offseason conditioning program and time in training camp as he rehabilitated the surgically repaired knee, and many felt that Harrison beat overwhelming odds by being recovered for the start of the regular season.
In his eight starts this season, Harrison, one of the league's hardest hitters and most feared safeties, has 44 tackles, one interception, two passes defensed and one forced fumble.
Senior writer Len Pasquarelli covers the NFL for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this story.