The Patriots are going to have to get by without Ty Law for at least a month -- and perhaps as long as seven weeks -- after the Pro Bowl cornerback was diagnosed with a broken bone in his left foot by a team doctor. Law collapsed on the field after turning the wrong way while in pass coverage during Sunday's 34-20 loss to the Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Law's Houston-based agent, Carl Poston, confirmed the injury yesterday, while indicating that Law would seek a second opinion.
"Ty doesn't feel it's that bad," said Poston, who said the broken bone was across the top of the foot. "He'd like to be able to get back out there and play as soon as possible, but we've got to make sure he's 100 percent before he gets back on the field.
"Ty has played with a lot of pain in his career and with several injuries. He has amazing healing capacity, and hopefully he can get back in a month and not miss a beat."
The Patriots surely will miss more than a beat without Law, whose high salary cap number was the source of offseason rancor between him and the team. Eventually, the Patriots decided not to fight Law when he refused to restructure his contract to lower that number, realizing how important he was to their defense.
The team certainly was reminded of that value after Law departed in the first quarter last Sunday and was replaced by rookie free agent Randall Gay, who was quickly burned for a touchdown by Plaxico Burress.
Efforts last night to reach Law, who has one year remaining on his contract, were unsuccessful.
"It comes at a tough time," Poston said. "Ty was very excited about the team and the possibility of the Patriots winning another Super Bowl. Hopefully, Ty can get healthy and contribute in the playoffs."
In the past few years, the Patriots have been able to withstand injuries, even to key players, because of their depth and ability to hide deficiencies with schemes. Coach Bill Belichick, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, and defensive backs coach Eric Mangini are now charged with offsetting Law's loss, likely by switching to more zone coverages so young corners Asante Samuel, Gay, and perhaps Eugene Wilson -- who may move over from safety -- do not get exposed in one-on-one coverage against veteran receivers.
The other X-factor is Tyrone Poole's knee injury. The team's other starting cornerback has missed the last two games -- and three of the last four -- but the Patriots have not elaborated on how bad Poole's injury is.
According to Poston, Law first thought he had sprained his foot, but soon realized the injury felt different from a sprain. X-rays taken at the stadium showed a break, which was confirmed by Patriots doctors when Law returned to Foxborough Monday.
Law was wearing a removable cast and using crutches after the game.
Poston is going to recommend that Law receive "cold" laser treatments, also known as low-level therapy treatments, which are designed to accelerate healing. Several Patriots have used a local therapist, Ellen Spicuzza, for such treatment. David Givens had similar treatment on his hamstring last season leading up to the Super Bowl and was able to play in the game.
The Patriots did not report to the NFL office that any players visited yesterday, though if the players came in after 4 p.m., when the list is due, the team can wait to report the visit until the next day. There are some older defensive backs out there -- including Otis Smith and Matt Stevens, two players who know the New England system -- or the Patriots could activate Earthwind Moreland off the practice squad. There aren't many options, however.
The Patriots also used receiver Troy Brown as a defensive back in exhibition games.