Exeter Chiefs winger Matt Jess could be out until February with a toe injury.
The 32-year-old has had surgery on the problem and will be sidelined for at least four months.
"Whenever you talk about big toe injuries they sound relatively minor, but they can be pretty complex," said Exeter head coach Rob Baxter.
"When it involves the bottom of the foot and the ligaments around the toe, as it does with Matt, it could be a relatively long term injury."
Jess is one of the club's longest-serving players and one of just five men still at the club who were part of the squad that helped Exeter win promotion to the Premiership in 2010.
He had not featured this season and found his chances limited last term after the emergence of Jack Nowell and the arrivals of Olly Woodburn and James Short.
"He's a real good leader of the culture we have here and the quality of people we want around, so it is a shame for him not to be available, but he will very quickly be able to be involved in and around the club in other roles and other ways ," Baxter added to BBC Sport.
"Matt is also coming to the age where he is starting to consider his next career options and what this allows him to do while he is rehabilitating is to think about some of those things as well - ideally we'd like him to stay around the club."
"Matt's such a professional guy, that as much as me saying it's a significant injury, he's so professional and he'll do his rehab so well that it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's not absolutely flying by the end of the season."