For a second straight year, Detroit Lions starting tailback Kevin Jones has suffered a serious, late-season injury, one that will likely require extensive rehabilitation and probably preclude him from participating in the team's offseason program and possibly training camp.
Coach Rod Marinelli confirmed Monday afternoon that Jones tore the anterior cruciate ligament of his right knee late in the first half of Sunday's victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Team physicians will wait until swelling subsides, Marinelli said, before making a determination on whether surgery is needed to repair the ligament. "We'll see how it comes out later this week," Marinelli said.
But it is rare that an ACL injury does not require surgery. And if Jones goes under the knife, he faces a rehabilitation stint of 8-10 months.
The four-year veteran, Detroit's first-round pick in the 2004 draft and a 1,000-yard rusher as a rookie, suffered a Lisfranc sprain to his left foot in the 14th game of the 2006 season. The injury required surgery and Jones missed all of the offseason conditioning program. He began training camp this summer on the physically unable to perform list.
Jones, 25, could face a similar scenario in coming months. And the Lions' brass could face some tough decisions, if Jones has surgery at the tailback position. Veteran T.J. Duckett, who rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown Sunday, and who will start the season finale against Green Bay, is working on just a one-year contract and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring.
If Jones faces a lengthy recovery period, and Duckett opts to leave, Detroit could be left without a proven tailback.
In 12 games this season, Jones carried 145 times for 566 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had 32 receptions for 193 yards.
For his career, the former Virginia Tech star has 3,052 yards and 24 touchdowns on 753 carries. Jones has 141 career catches for 1,002 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for a career-high 1,133 yards in his 2004 rookie campaign.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer with ESPN.com.