JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Jaguars have played without seven starters already this season. The eighth one might be tougher to replace than any of the others.
The Jaguars (7-3) will be without middle linebacker Mike Peterson for several games and possibly the rest of the season, leaving them with the difficult task of replacing their top tackler and defensive leader.
"It's a big blow, but at the same time, we know it's part of the game," defensive end Paul Spicer said. "We know Mike Pete is devastated because he missed so much time last year and he wanted to get all out of this year that he could get."
Peterson, who leads the team with 116 tackles, broke his right hand in the third quarter of Sunday's 24-17 victory against the San Diego Chargers. He played the rest of the game, then had X-rays that revealed several broken bones.
Peterson, who missed 11 games last season because of a torn chest muscle, sat slumped at his locker with a towel draped over his head after the game and declined interview requests.
"He's disappointed," coach Jack Del Rio said Monday. "He loves competing, loves playing football and loves being there for his teammates and all those things. It's hard when you've been injured and you're not going to be able to play. He's got to deal with emotion. It's tough."
Del Rio said he would have a more accurate timetable concerning Peterson's return after the former Florida standout has surgery.
Del Rio initially said Peterson might try to play with his right hand heavily wrapped. He backed off those statements Monday, citing what happened two years ago in the playoffs.
Peterson played at New England with a broken right wrist that was heavily taped. But Peterson missed a tackle and allowed tight end Ben Watson to run 63 yards for a key touchdown.
"We learned from our experience a couple of years ago in the playoff game," Del Rio said. "He went with the club and really wasn't able to wrap up and tackle and function the way he needs to function to help us win. So we're not really looking at that as an option. How long will it be? How much disruption's in there? What kind of time frame? We're just going to have to wait and see."
"It's not the first time we're going to have to replace somebody and have to keep rolling," Del Rio said. "We're going to do what we always do and that's plug somebody in and expect that guy to step in, step up and play well for us and help us win.
"That's what you have to do as a football team. That's what we've been able to do thus far and it's helped us stay in contention. There's a lot of different places where we're plugging in."
Also Monday, the Jaguars released kicker John Carney and re-signed linebacker Jorge Cordova, needing extra depth with Peterson's injury.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press