Leon Washington is back and he and the Jets are moving forward together.
Washington, a restricted free agent, signed his qualifying offer from the Jets today, then spoke with reporters who were already here at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center for the team’s annual predraft news conference that concluded just before Washington took the dais.
"It’s great to be back. Walking in here today, I felt all the love I felt the last four years," said Washington, who returned to the complex to continue his rehab from surgery after breaking his leg early in Game 7 at Oakland last year. He added that the entire time he was training in Florida, "I was wearing my Jets gear every day and hopefully I would get back here, either by a team signing me to an offer sheet and the Jets matching the offer or by me signing my tender.
"So far I’ve done everything the right way," he said of his rehab. "I beat the infection stage early on. I rehabbed extremely well. The last five, six weeks I was gone, I made tremendous progress doing everything the right way. I’ll sit down with the doctors and the trainers next week and we’re going to set a timetable each week and each month and I’m going to do my best to hit those targets."
Washington was back for the first time since leaving the team complex last month to rehab on his own at Athletes Performance Institute in Pensacola, Fla. The Jets were constantly monitoring his progress, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum was happy to see him back in the building.
"I spoke to Leon this morning," Tannenbaum said. "We sure do [expect him to play for the Jets this season]. We’re excited to have him back. You never know what would happen if the phone should ring, but our expectations are that he’ll be here."
As an RFA, Washington didn’t receive an offer sheet from any other NFL team, due to the unknown nature of how he’ll bounce back from the injury. But both Washington and Tannenbaum spoke optimistically of what’s ahead for Leon in Green & White in 2010.
"I feel confident in my abilities," Washington said. "The main thing is getting healthy. I feel when I do get healthy, I’ll be able to contribute to this team in a significant way, whether it’s returning kicks, catching the ball out of the backfield or running the ball. Looking at the moves the Jets have been making this offseason, we’re trying to put ourselves in a situation where we’re going to be in the Super Bowl. And if I can do anything to help the team get there, it’s going to be a tremendous fit for me."
"Leon has an unbelievable work ethic," said Tannenbaum. "For a guy his height, he breaks a lot of tackles with sheer leg strength, and that’s through hard work and a great work ethic. It was a significant injury but I would expect Leon to help us this year in a number of ways. We had a great talk, I’m sure the few weeks outside the building recharged his batteries, and he’s ready to roll."
Washington also wasn’t concerned about head coach Rex Ryan saying at last month’s owners’ meeting in Orlando, Fla., that he saw Leon in a third-down role, with Shonn Greene ticketed to get much of the carries and LaDainian Tomlinson coming in to replace Thomas Jones.
"I talked to Rex. He told me his stance on that is when I get healthy, he’ll see if I can carry more of a load and I’m back to the old Leon. That’s all that was, initially starting off doing things I did in the past and as I got healthy and got better, he’d increase my load."
Washington, punctuating his remarks with his trademark smile, said he’s been running for three weeks or so. "Percentage-wise, I’m still down there, but I can run a straight line," he said. Tannenbaum said he thought "anatomically, he’s pretty much back to being healed," and the GM’s understanding is that Leon will be back in the Jets’ offseason strength and conditioning program.
While declining to offer any early timetables until he meets with the medical and training staffs, Washington did say his plans are to practice in training camp.
"I feel good, my body feels good," he said. "Everything’s on the up-and-up."
Today’s poll question on NFL.com (more of a poll fill-in-the-blank) might be of interest to wearers of the Green & White:
The team to beat in the AFC East in 2010 will be the …
I hope I’m not giving anything away but with a mere 143,790 votes in, the results are:
April polls aren’t one of the January playoff tiebreakers and there’s a lot of hard work ahead. But it’s nice for the Green & White to be getting some respect from around NFL Nation.
Tags: LaDainian Tomlinson, Leon Washington, Mike Tannenbaum, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, strength program
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