The Jets will run into a familiar face Sunday at CenturyLink Field when they take on the Seattle Seahawks. Leon Washington spent the first four years of his NFL career as a part of the Jets and is now in his third season with this week’s opponent from the NFC West.
Washington was traded by the Green & White to Seattle in the spring of 2010 for a fifth-round draft pick. Despite no longer being with the franchise, he remains the Jets’ career leader with four kickoff-return touchdowns.
“I always said I was glad Leon was on my team because then I didn’t have to try and tackle him,” Jets safety Eric Smith said this week. “Leon is good when he has the ball in his hands, he’s good at making people miss, so it’s going to be a challenge for us on our returns to get him tackled.”
Washington ranks sixth in the NFL with an average of 29.1 yards on 15 returns this season. In 2008 he played in the Pro Bowl after leading the NFL with 1,606 all-purpose yards. The next year, his last with the Jets, he played in seven games before his season was cut short by a compound fracture of his fibula during the win at Oakland.
“I remember when I got traded, Rex came and talked to me and said, ‘Look, Leon, we have to pay a bunch of guys, Nick Mangold, David, Harris’ — I remember him saying the names — ‘Darrelle Revis,’ and stuff like that,” he recalled. “It’s a business, so I understand it. I was thankful that I had the opportunity that they drafted me in the first place. It was awesome.”
Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said he wasn’t involved with the team’s decision in not bringing Washington back. These days he notices Washington on Seattle highlights but doesn’t study him to the extent he once did.
“If you watch their first game that they played this year,” Westhoff said, “he broke the long kickoff and the long punt. He looks pretty good to me. He looks very solid. I have a lot of respect and I think he’s a darn good football player.”
Smith said he hasn’t talked with his former teammate in quite some time but is looking forward to reuniting with him Sunday. He hasn’t forgotten all of Washington’s big runs and kickoff returns.
“He’s done well,” Smith said. “You don’t hear about it much. But we keep up on him and it looks like every game he’s almost breaking one.”
Washington said he stays in contact with the Jets on Twitter and usually reconnects with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Revis in the offseason. He doesn’t hold any grudges toward his former team and is happy with the way things turned out.
“There’s no added attention to me playing the Jets,” he said. “Honestly — and I’m very serious when I say this — we’re concerned about what we’re doing out here. We have a really good football team and we’re trying to put things together. So we’re not too concerned about our opponent. We’re prepared for them but we’re concerned about doing things we need to do in order for us to win the game.
“Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the Jets? Yes. Would I like to return a kickoff for a touchdown against the 49ers, the Rams or whoever it may be? Yes.”
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: CenturyLink Field, Eric Smith, Leon Washington, Mike Westhoff, Rex Ryan, Seattle Seahawks
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