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Leonhard Still Pitches In Everywhere He Can

Posted by Eric Allen on January 19, 2011 – 5:23 pm

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

That Charles Dickens quote comes to mind when you think of Jim Leonhard as the Jets prepare for Sunday’s battle with the Steelers. The sixth-year safety is an integral part of the Green & White, but he broke his right tibia in practice on Dec. 3, was placed on injured reserve the next day and has been forced to watch this latest Jets’ playoff run.

“It definitely is bittersweet. We were 9-2 when I got hurt and I had a lot of contributions to this team, but to miss December, to miss January, to miss this playoff run — it really hurts. It definitely hurts,” he told me this week on “Four Quarters.” “It’s still hard to go to meetings and things like that, but you realize you did all you could before you got hurt. If we get that ring, I’m still going to get one. I’m excited and I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help the guys out.”

Leonhard has hardly been inactive, though, regularly making appearances for the club throughout the winter. Last Friday, he flipped a switch at the Empire State Building in a ceremony that led to the jewel in the Manhattan skyline being illuminated by green and white lights.

“To have the opportunity to light up the Empire State Building, that’s an opportunity that only comes around once in a lifetime,” said the Tony, Wis., native. “That was great, to represent the organization and to do that on behalf of the Jets. It was a lot of fun to see that fans’ reaction to that.”

When the victorious Jets flew home from New England on Sunday night, the pilot announced that they had been granted a special fly-by past the Manhattan landmark.

“I know they flew the plane back around the Empire State building to show the players after the game,” said Leonhard. “It means a lot to have the entire city of New York behind you. And Jersey and everything behind the Jets right now is a great feeling.”

Once reeling from the loss of Leonhard, the secondary has played splendidly in the postseason while containing Peyton Manning and then dominating Tom Brady.

“We’ve played a lot more zone coverage than we normally do the last two weeks and it really has confused teams. Then on top of that, when you play your man coverages or when you play your different zone coverages, it’s changed up,” said Leonhard. “There is a great mix and an offensive coordinator and a quarterback are really confused because they have to think every single play. I think that has been a huge key to our success against probably the two best quarterbacks in the NFL. Anytime you can get them confused, you’re doing some great things.”

Eric Smith has been doing great things in the postseason manning Leonhard’s position. He had seven tackles against the Patriots and recovered an onside kick to secure the victory after totaling eight solo tackles and two passes defended against the Colts.

“He’s been playing some great football. It’s been so fun to watch and to see him take that next step,” Leonhard said. “Somebody will make one or two guys miss and they get to Eric, it’s an unbelievable hit every time, and the guy’s down right there. That’s fun to watch. As a safety, he’s bringing that physical presence and he’s playing out of his mind right now. We need him to continue to play that way for us to have success.”

Instead of sulking about not playing in his third consecutive conference championship, Leonhard’s been a fixture at the facility: watching film, going to meetings and dropping bits of knowledge on his teammates. He is excited for Sunday’s matchup against a Ben Roethlisberger-led team that knocked him and the Ravens out of Super Bowl contention back in the 2008 AFC Championship Game at Heinz Field.

“He really doesn’t care if he does get hit,” Leonhard said of the Steelers’ QB. “A lot of times, you’ll get a free runner at him and with their blocking schemes it’s almost like they say, ‘Big Ben, you have to make somebody miss and then get the ball off.’ That’s what makes their offense unique and they get so many big plays off of him extending the play, shaking off a defender and then throwing the ball down the field.

“It definitely presents some challenges to a secondary, having a quarterback that can really extend that play two, three, four and five seconds. You really have to get those trackshoes on and get ready to run sometimes.”

The Steelers will field a better club than they did when the Jets visited on Dec. 19 as all-world S Troy Polamalu will be in the lineup. Leonhard believes the Steelers’ playmaker and his former Ravens teammate, Ed Reed, are the best two safeties in football. He has tremendous respect for Polamalu, a rangy player who plays with great aggression.

“You definitely can use it against him at times. He does get out of position because of a lot of the disguises and movement that he does. If you hit it at the right time, you can get some big plays out of it and a lot of times that’s where his big plays come from,” he said. “It looks like he’s badly beaten and he ends up making up ground, getting an interception or forcing a fumble. It’s the balancing act of attacking him and also staying away from him. That will be a great chessmatch between him and Mark all game long.”

The Jets’ charter this week will leave Newark, N.J., with Leonhard on board. Hopefully late Sunday night when that plane returns from Pittsburgh, he’ll see the Empire State Building still lit up in green and white after a most memorable victory.

“This will be the first game I’ve been at since I’ve been hurt, so I’m very excited to travel, be on the sidelines and hopefully stay out of the way and not get in trouble. I’m excited,” he said. “There’s no other place that I want to be than on that sideline after the game, celebrating with the guys and wearing that AFC Championship gear and getting ready for the Super Bowl.”

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Posted in Eric Allen | 19 Comments »

19 Responses to “Leonhard Still Pitches In Everywhere He Can”

  1. By jay on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply


  2. By steven on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    I hope you guys are training Mark Sanchez to watch out for Troy Polamalu and how to use his techniques against him. At the very least Mark should mislead him with his eyes and fake to a receiver and then go to another receiver. The fake is something Mark can use especially in the play action pass or the role out one way to pass and pass back the other way.

  3. By frank on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    This game is coming down to Sanchez and his play u can take that to the bank. We need to get him out of the pocket designed rollouts and away from harrison and their overall pass rush cause they r coming. I have alot of faith however in our oline, but u can only block this team for so long. A punt will b a positive play in this game and mark has got to realize that this week. Be patient NO picks and well b fine. Upmost confidence that our D will make enough stops and if mark stays patient c u in Dallas

  4. By jabbaar on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    We got this our ‘D’ will continue to get better

  5. By Mike Jet Vet on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    I’m a Jim Leonhard fan all the way but I believe E-Smith should take over for him he hits like a truck and he’ll make a good QB for our DB’s in the backfield..Time to get alittle bigger with some more speed it wouldn’t hurt..anyway we need to use O- linemen as extra TE’s for Steelers to protect Sanchez and give L-T and S-G more blocking ..with J-Co in the slot which BTW I asked for some time ago after we got B-E and S-H on track we’ll have triple trouble for Pittsburg .. Keller shouldn’t be a blocker so thats how I see it GO JETS

  6. By Hans on Jan 19, 2011 | Reply

    Its funny how much progress we make in a year. We get rid of Alan Faneca, people called it a mistake. Now, you’re lucky if you hear his name brought up. People said that Mark Sanchez didn’t have what it takes, look at him now. People said trading Thomas Jones for LT was a mistake. Who’s complaining now? Shoot, there was even a few people who wanted nothing to do with Jason Taylor, now every time he makes a play, those same people mark out for him. This team has come a long way, and will continue as long as we believe in our guys.

  7. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    B Smith back for KRs would be great, take pressure off Cro up against the best WRs we’ve faced all yr. MJV, I’m not sure E Smith is a full-time starter but luckily Rex loves DBs so we’re likely to have the usual big bunch of them fighting for jobs next yr. Which reminds me, for those worried about the salary cap, I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t go up, especially if Goodell pushes through an 18-game season. I see no evidence that Goodell has the slightest restraint when it comes to making or spending money. I don’t have a problem with those two things either, I have a problem with getting greedy and meddling with the game for the sake of it. Refs better toss Harrison out if he beats on a player when he’s down like he did in the SB vs. ARI.

  8. By IRA on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    E. Smith has filled in nice and is playing the best ball of his career right now. But Leonhard is special and it has to be killing him he can’t play. This is a team game and like EA wrote Leonhard is helping every way he can. And even though he has been out he will be a big part of them lifting the Lamar Hunt Trophy Sunday Night as the AFC Champs.
    GO JETS!!!!!

  9. By GaryC on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom, hell will freeze over before you see any officials throw out a steeler player in pittsburgh.remember this is the greatest franchise in football history, tongue in cheek.

  10. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Ha, funny, GaryC, and all too true. Still, the refs better play it fair this time, the sight of Harrison beating on that Cardinal while he was laying on the ground and getting only 15 yds for it was one of the most shameful things I’ve ever seen in football, fully worthy of the old Ben Davidson/Ike Lassiter days on the Raiders. And by the way, for anyone who thinks the Jets have all the troublemakers, get a load of always-be-thuggish Ray Lewis calling out his own offense over their loss to PIT! Which reminds me, how come Dallas doesn’t get any flack for the most pompous thing EVER done by an NFL team, calling themselves “America’s Team”? I don’t see anybody on the Jets or anywhere else going that far and the Cowboys have done it for 30 yrs.

  11. By GaryC on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    jet fan tom, don’t forget how the officials gave pittsburgh a couple of first downs in first game spotting the ball.even nantz and simms questioned that.My theory is that road teams have to play better because they do not get the calls on the road, and no way in Pittsburgh.

  12. By Gmany3k on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Harrison is a problem he still leads with his head he did it to Edwards last game over the middle in plane view . I know this Jet player would be more than happy to lay some wood on Harrison to give him awake up call enter Wayne Hunter. @Tom
    the patriots were America team by another name the Face of the NFL .they were handled to secure the greed you speak of using rule changes and refs and oh umm cheating and did I say cheating.So Now the NFL has its site on Sanchez and Rodgers to be the new poster boys. Sanchez needs to adjust these routes when a WR gets open on one of these 45 degree angle like to Jco which was overthrown the WR needs to do like Chrebet use to do go to the end zone and run under the throw by Mark it is an easier throw.

  13. By scjoe on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Hans, every one, like yourself, has there own opinions on almost everything in life, not just sport teams, individual players, coach’s play calling, etc. but everything. Sometimes I agree with those opinions, sometimes I don’t, I would think that is also true with everyone. I go back and fourth with a couple of guys on this site re: those opinions, I generally try to be civil about it, most others do to after all, we are all Jet fans. But that is what I like most about Randy’s blog, the diversity it displays from the regular followers, can you just imagine how boring it would be if everyone who posted, every time they posted, had the exact same opinion on everybody and everything the next guy posts? It would be pretty boring would you agree

  14. By Mike Jet Vet on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    I agree guys about Leonhard hes been great but hes long in the tooth and prone to injury to small, E-Smith I just believe he’s a better fit for Rex Road warriors he hits twice as hard believe it and can step right in without a hitch thats the point I was making not to mention we need a guy like him out there so Revis and Cro can do work .. forget Harrison Big Ben and the rest . its the Jets they have to worry about we are tough to beat and ready to take down anyone ..Wish I had tickets to Dallas

  15. By davetharave on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Screens, draws and quick slants are still the best way to defeat an all out pass rush. Establishing the run doesn’t hurt either. Mark’s gotta be on top of his game and cold weather CANNOT be an excuse. If MS is gonna play in the northeast they’ve gotta find a way to keep him warm and functioning normally in cold weather. Defensively, I think we’re seeing a D that is coming together in a tremendous way following the loss of Leonhard. I thought the linebackers were awesome against NE and need to be again. All 3 levels need to be on and when you get to Big Ben BRING HIM DOWN !! No missed tackles or clutching. Hit him low and HARD ! (E. Smith IS playing like a monster, keep it up Eric)

  16. By Jet Fan Since '64 Tom on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    With you on the road calls, GaryC, and Gmany, no doubt about the league pulling for Sanchez, he’s in more ads than some guys who’ve played 10 yrs. That said, it’s totally corrupt to favor one team or another on the field for marketing purposes and that’s certainly not how I wanna see the Jets win, Sunday or ever. MJV, I haven’t said it in so many words for fear of getting creamed but in an NFL in which teams carry and play three big TE’s like NE does, and in which some WRs are the size of TE’s,I don’t really think Leonhard can be a full-time S. In on packages, sure, and he’s a great tackler for a guy his size, but the match-ups were killing us.

  17. By THUNDER LIPS on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Eric Smith should give lessons on how to tackle and hit … i love watchinhg him smash someone like he did on Sunday. But don’t forget … Leonard aint too shabby in that department especially for his size. He caused a lot of fumbles last year in the playoffs too some in the redzone which were game changers. his inujury was a big hit for us which was obvious in the second pats game. If i recall correctly, Smith is a very bright guy and actually wants to be an FBI agent after football. so he can definitely quarterback the D too. I’d like to keep them both.

  18. By 37 year fan on Jan 20, 2011 | Reply

    Big Ben is going to be attacked from every direction ,…We will have big takeaways ,…I predict we take it to the house ….

  19. By TheMetalVagabond on Jan 23, 2011 | Reply

    Hi everyone, as usual the J-E-T-S are being over looked even after taking down Manning and Brady, as long as they don’t come flat they got a shot, Sanchize will have to chuck the ball deep to Edwards or Homes a few times each today to keep Pitt honest and respect the run

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