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News » New York Jets Inside Slant 2009-03-13


New York Jets Inside Slant 2009-03-13


New York Jets Inside Slant 2009-03-13
New Jets safety Jim Leonhard believes that part of his responsibility as a starting safety is to bring out the best in his running mate at the position.


That used to be Ed Reed when Leonhard was in Baltimore. Now it will be the Jets' Kerry Rhodes. Leonhard signed a three-year, $5.9 million deal with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent.

"My whole goal going into games," Leonhard said, "was allow Ed Reed to be Ed Reed and do whatever it took to put him in position to have the most success he could have. I think it takes a lot of intelligence and understanding of the defense to do that, because you never know. Ed might change it up on you real quick if he felt like he needed to be in a different position to make a play. That versatility is something I pride myself on. I think that's probably the biggest thing I bring to a team."

Leonhard will at least be comfortable in the system in his new home, as new coach Rex Ryan will use the aggressive 3-4 he had in Baltimore, as opposed to the passive 3-4 coached by Eric Mangini.

He expects himself and his teammates to have fun in the new defense.

"The players are going to have a lot of fun," the former undrafted free agent from Wisconsin said. "The players love (Ryan's system). There's not one guy that plays in that system that doesn't love it, and the freedom he gives you to make plays."

He added that Ryan is "as real a coach as it comes. He's not going to hold his tongue. He's not going to tell you what he thinks you need to hear as a player. He's going to tell you the truth. I respect that."

Leonhard is looking forward to returning punts and thus easing Leon Washington's workload. Leonard averaged 11.6 yards on punt returns last season and Washington averaged 10.4.

"I would love that opportunity" to return punts, Leonhard said. "It's something I've always enjoyed doing. It's a very rare opportunity for a defensive player to make a huge impact. ... I hope to help this team in that area."

Leonhard was a walk-on at Wisconsin and became a starter. He came into the NFL with Buffalo in 2005 as an undrafted free agent and signed with Baltimore last year as an unrestricted free agent.

"I've dealt with (being an underdog) my whole life and I do like to prove those people wrong," Leonhard said. "It's definitely something that drives me, but it's not the only thing that drives me. I've never had a lack of confidence in my own ability."

He said his "versatility" is his main attribute, adding, "I can do a lot of different things. I pride myself on being able to do whatever we need."

Ryan pointed out that the 5-foot-8 Leonhard was able to dunk a basketball in a bonding exercise for the Wisconsin football team, and the coach said, "this guy is an outstanding athlete. ... He's just a smart tough, passionate guy. You try to build your team with those kind of players."



Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: March 13, 2009

Chris Baker Name: Chris Baker
#86
Position: TE
Age: 28
Experience: 7 years
College: Michigan State
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