Vilma placed on IR with injured knee, ending season

NEW YORK -- Jets linebacker Jonathan Vilma was placed on
injured reserve Saturday with a knee injury, ending the one-time
Pro Bowler's season after seven games.

Vilma, who was hurt in New York's loss at Cincinnati last
Sunday, missed practice all week and was listed as out on the
team's injury report Friday.

"This is a not a career-threatening injury and the doctors
expect a full recovery," said Mitch Frankel, one of Vilma's

The loss of one of their defensive captains is the latest
disappointing development in what has become a season full of them
as the Jets have struggled to a 1-6 start.

"I am disappointed that my season ended prematurely," Vilma
said in a statement. "I was looking forward to playing the rest of
the season and helping the team get back on track. I now look
forward to supporting my teammates for the rest of the 2007 season
and returning to the field with them in 2008."

The Jets would not announce the exact nature of the injury or
which knee is affected. The linebacker underwent several tests
during the week and sought multiple medical opinions before
deciding to end his season. He's still mulling his options
regarding treatment.

"After reviewing all of the information available, the best
thing for Jonathan and the Jets is to place him on injured reserve
and turn his focus to rehabilitation and the 2008 season," general
manager Mike Tannenbaum said.

Rookie David Harris, the Jets' second-round draft pick out of
Michigan, is expected to take Vilma's spot in the starting lineup
Sunday against Buffalo. The hard-hitting Harris has 24 tackles in
limited time this season.

"Vilma's a great player," Harris said earlier in the week.
"Anytime that you lose a player like that, it's very hard to fill
his shoes. He's a great team leader. He's very well respected and
he has run the defense for four years now. I'll try to be ready
when my number is called."

The Jets added some depth at linebacker, activating Matt Chatham
from the reserve-physically unable to perform list. Chatham, who
plays mostly on special teams, missed minicamp, training camp and
the first seven games of the season while recovering from a foot

Since being chosen in the first round of the 2004 draft, Vilma
has played in every Jets game and started all but two. He
established himself as one of the best playmaking linebackers in
the league and was selected for the Pro Bowl following his second
season in 2005 after leading the league with 187 tackles.

The last two seasons have been a different story for Vilma, who
has struggled along with a number of other players to be as
effective in coach Eric Mangini's 3-4 defensive scheme. He was
fifth on the team with 39 tackles.

"Jonathan is a leader and has always done everything he can to
help this team win," Mangini said. "He's diligent in his
preparation and has always unselfishly taken the time to share his
knowledge of the game with his teammates. I know that he will
approach this challenge with that same type of effort and focus."

The announcement Saturday ends a strange week for Vilma and the

Vilma spent part of the second half of last week's game on the
bench and Mangini said Monday that Vilma, who had only three
tackles, was "dramatically affected" by an unspecified injury.

During his weekly spot Tuesday on a sports radio station, Vilma
said it was "a coach's decision" and wasn't due to any injury --
perhaps not wanting to violate the team's policy about not
discussing injuries. On Wednesday, Mangini said he spoke to Vilma
and explained the thought process, adding, "Sometimes you're going
to see it differently as a player and as a coach. We'll just have
to see how these tests go."