Jets coach Ryan expresses concern over RB Washington's absence

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is disappointed that injured running back Leon Washington is staying away from the team's voluntary workouts.

"He may have reasons for not being here or whatever, but the rest of the team volunteered to be here," Ryan said Thursday. "We would love to get Leon back."

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The versatile Washington, who's recovering from a broken right leg, was rehabilitating at the team's facility until he was offered a second-round restricted free-agent tender earlier this month. He's free to sign an offer sheet with another team, and the Jets would have one week to match it.

The former Pro Bowl kick returner is currently rehabbing at Athletes Performance Institute in Pensacola, Fla., according to a person with knowledge of the situation and who spoke on condition of anonymity because Washington hasn't publicly commented on the situation.

Jets spokesman Bruce Speight confirmed that team officials know where Washington is working out but said they prefer players to rehabilitate at their facility. If a player decides not to work with the team, the organization is obligated under the collective bargaining agreement to pay for "reasonable and customary rehabilitation expenses."

"I just know that no place is going to be as good as what we have here," Ryan said.

The person with knowledge of the situation said Washington isn't angry at a possible reduced role in the offense with the recent signing of LaDainian Tomlinson, but rather focused solely on getting healthy in time for the season.

Ryan added that Washington was doing "phenomenal" at the time he left the Jets' facility.

"I mean, this guy was working his tail off, just like we know Leon would do," the coach added. "He was getting better. I mean, he's getting close to really being back. That's why I hate to see him not take advantage of what we have here."

Ryan was asked if he believed Washington, the only player not at voluntary workouts, would jeopardize his chances of being 100 percent healthy for the start of the season by not rehabilitating at the team's facility.

"This is a huge year for us as an organization," Ryan said. "It's a huge year for Leon, personally. Then let's try to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful."

Ryan indicated he wouldn't speak to Washington to persuade him to join his teammates.

"There's nothing I can say that's going to get Leon back here," Ryan said. "This needs to be Leon's decision. It's a voluntary camp or whatever you want to call it. I'm going to leave that up to him."

Ryan reiterated statements he made earlier this week at the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla., that he envisioned the versatile Washington more as a kick returner and third-down back, behind Shonn Greene and Tomlinson, than an every-down ball carrier.

"I said he's a third-down back and a Pro Bowl returner," Ryan said. "I mean, that's a pretty big thing. Do we expect him to come back from the surgery he had ... and you're going to put him in there instead of Shonn Greene or LaDainian Tomlinson? Maybe you would. I'm not comfortable with that.

"Let's see where he's at. I'm not just going to give him the ball 20 times a game coming off of that. He has to be ready to take that kind of role. If he's ready to take an expanded role, then obviously we could see that."

Washington's agent, Alvin Keels, tweeted Monday that the running back is weighing his options and expected to be cleared for running drills within the next two weeks.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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