After three seasons with the New York Jets under head coach Rex Ryan, veteran safety Jim Leonhard will not return to the team in 2012, after the Jets addressed the safety position via free agency and the draft.
The 29-year-old Leonhard, who played under Ryan with the Baltimore Ravens for one season prior to his stint with the Jets, is trying to make a comeback from knee surgery after tearing his patellar tendon last December.
It was the second straight season-ending leg injury for Leonhard, who had recovered from a fractured tibia suffered in December 2010 to make it back on the field in time for Week 1 of the 2011 season.
The 5’8, 190 lb Leonhard, who called the defensive signals for the Jets secondary, also averaged 10.2 yards per punt return as the primary punt returner in four seasons under Ryan from 2008-2011.
The Jets are comfortable with their safety depth heading into training camp, so the fan favorite Leonhard will have to try to latch on to a new team in 2012 if he can prove that his knee is healthy.
Going into his eighth NFL season, Jim Leonhard is no stranger to having to prove himself.
A former walk-on at Wisconsin, Leonhard entered the league as an undrafted free agent signing by the Buffalo Bills in 2005, spending his first three seasons there before blossoming under Ryan after joining the Ravens.
Leonhard told a local TV station in his native Wisconsin that he feels good physically, and he anticipates finding a team to play for in time for training camp, though it’s not likely he’ll return for a fourth season with the Jets.
“The knee is feeling great and I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’m getting antsy. Football is around the corner and I don’t have a team … I know I’m going to be playing football somewhere this season. I just have to figure out where.”
The Jets believe they can get by with new additions LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, two veteran safeties they signed to one-year deals this offseason. They also kept incumbent Eric Smith.
Additionally, the Jets added defensive back talent in the 2012 NFL Draft, with rookies Josh Bush and Antonio Allen competing for snaps on Rex Ryan’s defense as well.
Barring an unexpected, major injury to the Jets secondary, they appear pretty comfortable moving on without Leonhard. I know I speak for many others when I say I wish him well wherever he plays this season.