Rex Ryan was in good spirits today as the Jets formally announced their “Hard Knocks” collaboration with HBO Sports and NFL Films. But Ryan, slimmed down after his recent lap-band surgery, was clearly miffed regarding the absence of Leon Washington from the team’s voluntary workout program.
“We have the No. 1 facilities in the country, we have a great medical staff, a great medical team and we have the best strength coach in the country. Leon knows this and that’s what’s disappointing,” said Ryan when writers huddled around the head coach. “Wherever he’s at might be good, but it’s not the best. I want what’s best for him and the New York Jets and this is a time there’s team building. This guy is a great young man — I love Leon — but it’s still disappointing he’s not here.”
Washington, who suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula last October, is a restricted free agent. He received a second-round tender from the Green & White but hasn’t signed his contract. He is free to sign an offer sheet with another club and the Jets would have a week to match or receive a second-round pick in April’s draft as compensation.
“When we put our tenders out there, that’s when he left. And he was doing phenomenal,” Ryan said of Washington’s rehabilitation. “This guy was working his tail off just like we all knew Leon would do and he was getting better. He’s getting close to really being back. That’s why I hate to see him not take advantage of what we have here.”
Earlier this week, Ryan said he envisioned Washington being "a third-down back and Pro Bowl returner” for the Jets in 2010. And he stood by those comments today, indicating that it should no way be seen as a slight.
“Do we expect him to come back from the surgery? Yeah. And you’re going to put him in there instead of Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson? Maybe you would, but I’m not comfortable with that,” he said. “Let’s see where he’s at. I’m not just going to give him the ball 20 times a game coming off of that. He has to be ready to take that kind of role. If he’s ready to take an expanded role, then obviously we can see that. Third down is the most important down you have on offense and that would be an ideal situation for him. We have three great backs.”
The Jets most recently added the NFL’s eighth all-time rusher to that backfield in LaDainian Tomlinson. While Ryan and the league’s top-ranked defense made LT a non-factor (15 touches, 24 yards) in the Jets’ divisional playoff win over the Chargers, he still feels Tomlinson has plenty of good football left in him.
“We had eight guys down in the box every snap when he was in there, so maybe that’s one thing. We had to cover him with a guy-and-a-half every time, so we were never going to solo him,” he said of locking up LT. “He might have not run the ball very well — well, I hope not. We had everybody keying him.”
The Jets also quietly made another key move last week, signing ageless FB Tony Richardson for one more year.
“He’s here for all the right reasons,” Ryan said. “He loves it here, he’s still a very productive player and he’s chasing something that is hard to get.”
Rex isn’t entirely closing the book on either K Jay Feely or DE Marques Douglas, but there is a very real possibility that both players will be elsewhere in the fall.
“We’re always open to any situation but right now we have Nick Folk and we’re happy to have him. You guys know how I felt about Jay and feel about Jay,” said Ryan. “ I think he’s a tremendous kicker, a tremendous person, and we’ll see what happens.”
Marques, said the coach, "probably has one or two years left but if he can get a bid deal for somewhere else, he has my blessing.”
Tags: LaDainian Tomlinson, Leon Washington, Rex Ryan
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