FOXBOROUGH -- Patriots running back Fred Taylor underwent surgery today to repair severe ligament damage in his right ankle and could miss the rest of the season, according to a league source.
The 33-year-old Taylor, who is the team's leading rusher this season through four games with 201 yards on 45 carries and two touchdowns, is facing the likelihood of being done for the year, according to the source. But there is a small chance that Taylor could return during the final month of the regular season depending on how his recovery progresses.
Taylor sustained an eversion ankle sprain -- meaning he rolled his ankle to the outside -- on his final carry in the Patriots' 27-21 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. Taylor, who finished the game with seven carries for 25 yards, hobbled to the sideline following the 3-yard run with under five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
He did not return and was absent from practice on Wednesday.
Taylor's ankle surgery was done by Dr. George Theodore, the same surgeon who reconstructed the ruptured peroneal tendon sheath of former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling in 2004, after Schilling famously pitched in the playoffs and World Series that year with sutures to hold the tendon in place, allowing him to help the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years.
Taylor, who is in his 12th NFL season, joined the Patriots this season, signing a two-year, $5 million deal. He had spent the previous 11 seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In 2005, he missed four games for Jacksonville with what was initially referred to as a sprained right ankle, but after further tests the Jaguars re-classified the injury as a bone bruise.
The last time Taylor played in all 16 games of a season was 2003, when he was in the middle of a stretch of 46 consecutive starts. However, in both 2006 and 2007 he played in 15 games, and in '07 the only game he missed was the season-finale, when he was a healthy deactivation as Jacksonville prepared for the playoffs.
Last season, Taylor missed three games with a torn ligament in his thumb.
His absence leaves the Patriots with Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has been a healthy inactive in three of the team's four games, including the last two, as their stable of running backs.