FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison will miss the rest of the season with torn ligaments in his left knee, the team confirmed Tuesday.
The Patriots placed Harrison on injured reserve Tuesday, and agent Steve Feldman said the 32-year-old strong safety is expected to undergo surgery in four to six weeks for a torn anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament.
Coach Bill Belichick did not disclose the extent of Harrison's injury after he went down in the first quarter of New England's 23-20 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday. But Harrison's teammates made it clear the injury was serious.
"I went in at halftime and you could just tell that he was hurting," free safety Eugene Wilson said after the game. "He had tears in his eyes because he loves the game so much, and to go down and know that you might not be able to play, it hurts."
Harrison is determined to return and play for New England next year, Feldman said.
"If anybody can do it, Rodney Harrison can do it," Feldman said. "He's optimistic. . . . This is just another challenge."
Harrison, who started every game since he arrived from San Diego in 2003, was hurt when Pittsburgh wide receiver Cedrick Wilson hit his legs after being bumped by a New England player. Harrison grimaced and was driven off the field on a cart.
He was the Patriots' leading tackler the last two seasons and is the NFL's career leader in sacks by a defensive back. Harrison also has six interceptions in six playoff games with New England, including two in last season's 24-21 Super Bowl win over Philadelphia.
The Patriots secondary was depleted before Harrison went down. Three injured defensive backs — cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay and safety James Sanders — did not play against the Steelers.
Patriots tackle Matt Light left the field Sunday with a cast on his right leg, but his status has not been updated.
Also Tuesday, the Patriots waived linebacker Wesly Mallard. That leaves two openings on the team's 53-player roster. Mallard, 26, was signed by the Patriots as a free agent in April and played in the first two games, recording three special teams tackles. Mallard spent his first three seasons with the New York Giants.
NINERS' WOODS ON IR: The San Francisco 49ers placed wide receiver Rashaun Woods on injured reserve Tuesday with a thumb injury, ending a second straight disappointing season for the team's former No. 1 draft pick.
Woods, who was inactive the first three games this season, injured ligaments in his left thumb late last week. He practiced despite the injury, but further tests determined that he needed surgery, which he underwent Monday.
Woods was the 31st overall pick in 2004, parlaying his stellar college career at Oklahoma State into a high draft selection and the accompanying $3.85 million in guaranteed money from the 49ers.
But he has struggled from the start in the NFL. He missed three weeks of his first training camp with a hamstring injury, and he never caught up to his teammates during San Francisco's 2-14 season. Woods caught only seven passes for 160 yards and a touchdown last season.
He missed time in training camp this year with a strained quadriceps muscle and fell behind undrafted free agent Otis Amey on the depth chart.
The 49ers have two open roster spots after placing tight end Eric Johnson on injured reserve last week. Coach Mike Nolan said he is exploring options to fill the vacancies. It is likely the Niners would try to get some secondary help to replace starting cornerback Ahmed Plummer, who will miss up to six weeks after surgery to remove a bone chip on his left ankle.
LIONS' BRYANT OUT FOR SEASON: Detroit Lions cornerback Fernando Bryant is out for the season with a separated right shoulder.
The Lions put Bryant on injured reserve Tuesday and signed wide receiver Scottie Vines, who caught three passes for 51 yards in six games last year for them. Andre Goodman will replace Bryant in the starting lineup Sunday at Tampa Bay.
Bryant was hurt against Chicago in the season's second week when safety Kenoy Kennedy hit him and receiver Muhsin Muhammad.
"When I hit the ground, I couldn't move my shoulder," Bryant said last week.
Bryant made nine tackles this season and forced one fumble.
Last year, he was limited to 10 games because of injury and didn't make an interception after getting a $7.25 million signing bonus as part of his $24 million, six-year contract. He was a five-year starter with the Jacksonville Jaguars before signing with the Lions.