Leon Washington is known for his quickness, and the talented running back/kick returner rapidly moved off the practice field this morning to speak with reporters. After skipping three weeks of voluntary workouts this spring, Washington was back at practice last week but today was the first time he publicly discussed his absence with the media.
"Well, first of all everyone knows that the Jets want to give me an extension. Obviously, we had some disagreements on the contract parameters," Washington said. "With contracts, you are going to have disagreements. On my part, I have to do what I have to do in order to get my point across. I sat down and talked to Mike [Tannenbaum] and got some understanding."
Washington, who served as the AFC's kick returner in February's Pro Bowl, had a difficult time staying away from his teammates and the facility. He is entering the final year of his contract and would like to get an extension soon.
"I guess you would call it good faith," he said of his return. "I'm with my teammates and happy to be here. I'm enjoying it so much. I'm looking forward to training camp and getting the contract done.
"I guess I shouldn't say this, but I was missing it a lot. I was missing the guys. I wanted to get back and try to spend time with the players before we get to training camp. It is critical that in order to win, you have to have everyone together. I want to be with the Jets and I was looking forward to getting back here for the OTAs and the minicamps."
The Jets have one of the most talented backfields in the NFL with Thomas Jones and Washington, but both men are reportedly not happy with their current contracts. While TJ has elected not to speak to the media, his running mate openly discussed his situation today.
"There were no promises with the contracts, but they [the Jets] have expressed concerns with getting me an extension," Washington said. "At the same time I want fair market value. I want to be a Jet, I love being here. I loved being out here today."
A fourth-round find out of Florida State back in 2006, Washington established career highs last season in touchdowns (eight), receptions (47) and yards per carry (5.9). The 26-year-old dynamo, who is the Green & White's most explosive threat, also had nine offensive plays that covered 20 yards or more and averaged 25.6 yards on kick returns and 10.4 yards on punt returns.
If nothing happens on the contract front before training camp commences in Cortland, Washington said he doesn't know what he'll do.
"I will wait until that time comes around and we will see how everything goes," he said. "I have to talk to my agent and the Jets, but there is no decision yet. I think it is important for me to be at training camp and hopefully I can be there."
The always amicable Washington, a fan favorite, was in good spirits during his brief talk.
"I'm not frustrated at all. Contracts, or agreements, usually take a long time to work out," he said. "Obviously I have a different situation, but at the same time I realize the importance of me getting out there with my teammates and I want to be there. I just want fair market value and then you will see Leon at training camp."
In addition to Jones and Washington, the Jets are also happy with the progress of youngsters Shonn Greene and Danny Woodhead. This running back stable is deep and they'll be moving behind one of the best offensive lines, if not the best, in football. You couple that with a strong defense and the Jets will be an interesting team to watch in 2009 and beyond. The 5'8", 202-pound Washington figures to be an important piece in this club's future.
"It was fun. The first day back out was in OTAs last week. You can see the enthusiasm out there right now," he said. "Everybody has come a long way with our confidence going into the season. I love football. I love playing football, especially for the Jets. I look forward to being a Jet for a long time."