The Patriots suffered a tough blow after Dane Fletcher reportedly suffered a torn ACL on Thursday night.

Reports after Thursday night’s win over the Saints say that linebacker Dane Fletcher suffered an ACL injury, which is bad news for a defense that is trying to bounce back from a tough 2011 season.

During training camp Fletcher brought a lot of energy and appeared poised to become a bigger part of their defense after finishing strong last year. His hard work earned him a start against the Saints, lining up at inside linebacker alongside Jerod Mayo.

The bad news is it all ended just two minutes into the game before he had an opportunity to make an impact. The Saints went 3-and-out, which were the only defensive snaps he saw after it was actually special teams where he went down while covering a Patriots punt on the ensuing drive and had to be helped off the field.

After the game Bill Belichick talked about what Fletcher means to the team, but wouldn’t elaborate further on his status.

“Well he’s played on all four downs for us,” said Belichick.  He’s played on first and second down, played on third down and played in the kicking game.  He has some versatility and he’s had roles on different downs at different times or in different game plans.  So he’s done all those things to some degree.”

“We’ll evaluate him like we do with any situation like that and see what the doctors say.  I’m not a doctor.”

Fletcher had told the Boston Herald almost two weeks ago that he spent this offseason taking extra care of his body as he prepared for training camp and had been getting plenty of reps playing at inside linebacker leading up to his start Thursday night.  It’s just too bad he’ll now have to likely spend the next few months working toward getting himself ready for next season.