Safety Jim Leonhard may look average at 5'8" and 186 pounds, but he's no run-of-the-mill guy. An average guy probably wouldn't participate in activities that involve the use of his hand after a thumb injury like he suffered against Jacksonville last Sunday.
But just one series after the play that Leonhard hurt his thumb on, No. 36 was back out on the field.
"Once I got to the sidelines I knew. Initially, I though I jammed it or hit it," Leonhard told reporters today. "Give the training room a lot of credit. They got me back, took the X-rays, and once I passed, I was able to get out and only miss that one series. They did a great job to allow me to play in that game and potentially play in this game."
Just five days after the injury — and two days before the Jets play the Patriots in Foxboro, Mass. — Leonhard showed no fear as he stepped on the practice field for the first time this week.
"It was nice to be able to get out there and see what I could and could not do and communicate that with Rex [Ryan] and the defensive coaches," he said. "To have that opportunity to practice today gives me hope that I will be able to play on Sunday."
"He also knows how important this game is," said Ryan, who also was Leonhard's defensive coordinator last season in Baltimore. "I would not be shocked to see him out there."
Leonhard realizes that practice is not the same as going full-speed and full-contact in a game. But he's confident that the extra work he put in today was enough for a self-evaluation.
"You can't really judge some of those things unless you're going live and you're not doing that at this point in the season," he said. "You kind of have to put yourself in as many situations. I stayed out after practice and just tried to do as many game-like situations as possible."
The fifth-year safety, third on the team with 58 tackles by the coaches' video breakdown, is officially listed as questionable for New England. Eric Smith, who replaced him for that one series on Sunday, along with James Ihedigbo will fill his position if needed. Regardless of if Leonhard plays or not, LB David Harris will likely handle the helmet communications.
"If there are certain things that I won't be able to do, if I won't be able to be on the field all the time, it wouldn't be in our best interest for me to have the headset," said Leonhard. "I'm sure that's something we'll figure out in the next 48 hours. ... David has done a great job all week with it, from what I heard and talking with him about it. We feel confident that whoever has it, we're not going to have communication issues."
It's going to be a team effort to pick up the slack, and Leonhard is not going to be selfish when making the decision to step on the field come Sunday.
"Obviously as a player you want to play, but at the same time you have to think about your team," he said. "There are a lot of guys that put a lot into what we do. I have to put my ego to the back. If it's not the right decision to play, then I'm not going to play. We'll see. In the next 48 hours I think I'll feel a lot better than I do today.
"I feel confident that if I do play, I'll be protected and I wont have to worry about hurting myself further. That gives me confidence that I can go out there and play football."