Pats put Gostkowski on season-ending IR

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots on Wednesday morning placed kicker Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve with a thigh injury, ending his season. Kicking duties will now fall to newly signed Shayne Graham.

Gostkowski has a torn quad muscle that might require surgery, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, and is expected to be fine for the 2011 season.

The loss of Gostkowski is a tough blow for the Patriots, as the fifth-year kicker is one of the best in the league at his position. He was 10 of 13 on field goals this season and he was among the leaders in rate of touchbacks in his kickoffs.

The news came as a surprise to quarterback Tom Brady during his morning press conference.

“Didn’t realize that. That’s a bummer,” Brady said when asked to comment on the news of Gostkowski’s status. “He’s been a hell of a player here. Great kicker. We’ve had a few guys put on IR that are real good, dependable players. ... He’ll be missed.”

It was originally thought Gostkowski would miss up to several weeks with the thigh injury, which was suffered during pregame warmups Sunday at Cleveland, but now it appears it is more serious. Gostkowski ultimately left Sunday's game in the second quarter. Receiver Wes Welker was called upon to kick an extra point in the second half and to handle kickoff duties.

“Any time a team loses a player, it’s hard for the team to go through,” said Graham, who will wear jersey No. 5. “No one wants to see a player go down with injury, especially a player the caliber of Stephen. He’s done such a good job for this team.

“My goal is to come in here and perform at my best and perform well for the team and help us win games. I think the fact that I haven’t been on a team for every game this year makes me a little hungry and makes me look forward to getting my career going on again.”

The Patriots had the 32-year-old Graham in for a workout in October, so he was high on their emergency list. Over the course of his 10-year career, Graham has hit 196 of 230 attempted field goals (an impressive 85.2 percent). He is no stranger to Pittsburgh's Heinz Field, where the Patriots will play Sunday, from his time with the Cincinnati Bengals (2003-2009).

Graham was in training camp this year with the Ravens, losing a competition with Billy Cundiff. He spent one game with the New York Giants this season -- a Week 6 win over Detroit -- filling in for the injured Lawrence Tynes and going 4 of 4 on extra points. He also had five kickoffs in that game, with one touchback.

Before the season, Gostkowski signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Patriots through 2014 and pay him an average of $3.5 million per season.