The Indianapolis Colts' beleaguered defense took another hit Tuesday.
The team announced that safety Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders' replacement, will miss the remainder of the season after he has surgery on his injured right shoulder. It's not what the Colts needed after giving up 31 points and 174 rushing yards during last weekend's loss at Jacksonville, but that's life in the NFL.
"There's obviously a lot of work to do on that side of the ball, and we've got to get that straightened away," Colts president Bill Polian said on his weekly radio show Monday night. "We've got good players there, but they're not playing well right now."
And now the Colts (2-2) will be short-handed, too.
The Colts said Tuesday that Bullitt will be placed on season-ending injured reserve, but they didn't reveal the exact nature of his ailment. However, The Indianapolis Star reported that Bullitt broke a bone in his shoulder.
"Worst possible news," Leonard Roth, Bullitt's agent, said in an e-mail to the newspaper. "He will be operated on in the next two weeks to repair it and get ready to go next year."
Bullitt, a former undrafted free agent, had started 24 of the Colts' past 36 regular-season games, mostly in place of the oft-injured Sanders, and had become one of the team's most consistent tacklers. So when Sanders went down in the season opener with a torn biceps muscle in his right arm, most people figured the Colts wouldn't lose much by putting Bullitt in the lineup.
Bullitt ranks seventh on the team this season with 13 tackles and has one of the Colts' three interceptions. Now, with Bullitt out for the season and Sanders expected to miss at least two more months of playing time, the Colts' already-thin secondary is in dire need of help.
Veteran Jamie Silva, normally the next in line, went down with a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament during the preseason, and the Colts started the season with just three safeties on the roster -- Sanders, Bullitt and two-time Pro Bowl pick Antoine Bethea. Now they only have Bethea available.
Bullitt hurt his shoulder twice Sunday, the second time midway through the third quarter. He already had put a hefty brace on the shoulder after being injured in the first half, the same brace he wore most of last season.
When Bullitt left the game, recently signed DaJuan Morgan took his place. Morgan has solid credentials as a third-round draft pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008. This weekend, he likely will have a chance to start against his former team as the NFL's last unbeaten team visits Lucas Oil Stadium to challenge the Colts.
The team also activated undrafted rookie Mike Newton, a safety, from the practice squad Tuesday and re-signed veteran safety Aaron Francisco, who played with the AFC champion Colts last season after spending 2008 with the NFC champion Arizona Cardinals.
The rash of injuries has hit Indianapolis' defense hard.
Besides Sanders and Bullitt, starting linebacker Clint Session missed two games with a hamstring injury before he returned to play against the Jaguars. His backup, Kavell Conner, had surgery to repair a fractured left foot last week and already has been ruled out of this weekend's game against the Chiefs. Another backup linebacker, Ramon Humber, was placed on the waived-injured list after fracturing his right hand two weeks ago, and the Colts lost six defensive backs to season-ending injuries during training camp.
Plus, Indianapolis must fix a defense that has struggled to pressure quarterbacks the past two weeks and is allowing nearly 150 yards per game, 29th in the NFL.
"The way to develop consistency, and I'm going to paraphrase the great John Wooden here, but the best way to help the team is to improve yourself," Polian said. "So everybody on the team has to do the best they can do. If everybody concentrates the best they can do, if everybody goes out and does the best they can every week, things will work out."
But it's not just the defense taking hits.
Wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez is set to miss his fourth consecutive game this weekend, and rookie kick returner Devin Moore will be placed on injured reserve with nerve damage in the neck or shoulder area.
The Colts also released defensive tackle Mitch King from the active roster and wide receiver Alric Arnett from the practice squad, and they signed wide receiver Kenneth Moore.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.