Hunter Called Upon To Fill Huge Hole On Offensive Line

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Damien Woody won’t get a chance to face his former team in the playoffs, and his absence could put a huge crimp in the New York Jets’ championship hopes.

The Jets placed their starting right tackle on injured reserve with a left Achilles’ tendon injury Wednesday. Woody returned from a right knee problem to play all but the final three plays of last weekend’s wild-card win at Indianapolis. He hurt the Achilles’ tendon on the final drive and was replaced by Wayne Hunter, who will start Sunday at New England in the divisional round.

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Hunter figures to see plenty of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, who has played on the outside frequently in the Patriots’ complex defense.

“The last game, he was over D-Wood a lot,” Hunter said of Wilfork, “so I have to be ready for that. Vince is the man, stout and hard to move. He’s worthy of the Pro Bowl game.

“I don’t think they will change much. I’m not expecting more than what I see on film. If they do (change), so be it. I’ll be up to the challenge.”

Hunter started the last three games of the regular season while Woody was sidelined with the knee injury. Jets coach Rex Ryan expressed confidence in the seven-year veteran.

“We are fortunate we have Wayne Hunter,” Ryan said.

Ryan added he expects Woody, a 12-year veteran, to undergo surgery.

“It’s tough, because he worked his tail off to get back,” Ryan said. “Then he had a great challenge in front of him and did a great job against (Colts DE) Robert Mathis. Now he doesn’t have the chance to play against his old team, New England.”

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Woody spent five years with the Patriots, mostly as a center, before moving to the Lions for four seasons.

Hunter called his experience in wins over Pittsburgh and Buffalo and a loss to Chicago in December “real important. I’m happy I got in there heading into the playoffs. It will help me for this game.”

Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold praised Hunter for making sure he remained prepared if called on. Now, he’s being called on big time.

“The fact he’s kept his head in it, which a lot of times when you are not playing is tough, and he was keeping focused is very good,” Mangold said. “Wayne showed he’s staying ready and when he’s gotten in there, he’s done a good job.”

Ryan also said right guard Brandon Moore tweaked his back in the weight room, but the coach expects Moore to be fine for Sunday.

Kick returner Brad Smith, who also is the Jets’ quarterback in their wildcat formation, hurt his groin at Indianapolis. He said his recovery is going well, but wouldn’t speculate whether he’ll be healthy enough for the New England game. Ryan said he’d be surprised if Smith can’t go.

Smith ranked second in the league in kickoff returns with a 28.6-yard average and had two runbacks for touchdowns this season. With him sidelined, starting cornerback Antonio Cromartie had a 47-yard kickoff return to set up the winning field goal drive against the Colts.

New York added wide receiver Patrick Turner to the active roster and signed guard Dennis Landolt to the practice squad.

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Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.