Injury suffered by Pats’ Harrison appears to be season-ending

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rodney Harrison, the hard-hitting but injury-plagued safety of the New England Patriots, appears to be done for the season — and perhaps his career — after being hurt again.

The 15-year veteran was injured on the last play of the third quarter of the Patriots’ 41-7 win over the Denver Broncos on Monday night when he chased scrambling quarterback Jay Cutler.

Harrison, in the final year of his contract, pointed to his teammates and waved to the crowd as he was driven off the field on a cart after apparently injuring the quadriceps muscle in his right leg.

Coach Bill Belichick gave no update on the injury during his conference call Tuesday but said after the game that it didn’t look good.

The NFL Network first reported Tuesday that Harrison had a torn quad. The Boston Globe later reported he had a torn right quad. During the game, it was announced he had a knee injury.

“It was difficult for all of us to watch Rodney be carted off like he did,” Belichick said Tuesday. “We hope that all goes well for him.”

The Patriots (4-2) already are without quarterback Tom Brady, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the opener, and running back Laurence Maroney, whose season ended when he went on the injured reserve list Monday with a shoulder injury. Belichick refused to say if Maroney would need surgery.

Sammy Morris rushed for 138 yards in Maroney’s place but hurt his knee and didn’t play in the second half. Belichick said his status was day-to-day.

The injury to the 35-year-old Harrison is his fourth in four years.

In 2005, he tore three ligaments in his left knee in the third game and missed the rest of the season and the playoffs. The next season, he sat out six games with a broken right shoulder blade and retuned for two before suffering a strained right knee in the final regular-season game and missing the playoffs.

He was healthy last season but missed the first four games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. This season, he started all six games and had one interception.

Harrison made five tackles Monday before the injury.

“Rodney is one of the leaders on the defense from experience and from his playing style and production,” Belichick said. “He’s a good player. He’s been a good player (for the Patriots) just going on six years now.

“It was hard to watch him go through what happened last night. That’s tough. I feel badly for him. You hate to see that with any player, but that was very unfortunate for him and we all feel badly for him.”

Safety Brandon Meriweather, a first-round draft choice last year, got his third interception of the season Monday and likely would move into a starting role.

Harrison made the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 2001 during his nine-year stint with San Diego. The Chargers cut him after the 2002 season when he was slowed by an ankle injury.

The Patriots signed him as a free agent in March 2003 and they won Super Bowls in each of their first two seasons with him. In six seasons with New England, he had nine sacks and eight interceptions.

The aggressive Harrison, the target of complaints by some opponents of dirty hits, has been fined more than $200,000 by the NFL. He was suspended for one game in 2002 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Oakland’s Jerry Rice that cost him a game check of $111,764.

But Harrison also has been a mentor to players like 24-year-old James Sanders, the Patriots’ other starting safety.

“He is a future Hall of Famer. He is one of the best to play this game. He has taught me a lot,” Sanders said in the locker room after Monday’s victory. “I am going to go to the training room and see how he is doing and let him know I am here for him.”

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