Found September 20, 2013 on Football and Futbol:
I planned on writing an article questioning why the New England Patriots had resigned RB Leon Washington when we are in need of players who can take the field and not give overtime to our training staff.  I mean, why waste a roster spot on a running back who is actually a kickoff return specialist, especially since we elected to keep injured TE Rob Gronkowski off of the PUP list?  Clearly this topic has been on my mind for a few weeks and his lack of availability so far this season has just made the decision more curious by the day.  Well, I did a little research before typing and now I’m sold on the decision.  If you aren’t sold on Leon Washington after you read this, you will be as the season progresses.  Recently, Washington has been viewed as a kickoff return specialist because that is the role he played while in Seattle during the past three NFL seasons.  Moreover, he shares the record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown (8), holds the record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in a game (2) and has made his way onto the Pro Bowl team for his special teams prowess.  Obviously with those accolades following him around he’s going to be known a kickoff return specialist when in actually he is a well rounded football player. Here’s a quick look at Washington’s first four years in the NFL.  As a rookie playing for the New York Jets and Eric Mangini, Washington had 650 yards rushing on 151 attempts (4.3 ave) and 270 yards receiving on 25 catches (10.8 ave).  He played sparingly on special teams as he returned 13 punts for 97 yards and 6 kickoffs for 79 yards.  The following year (2007) he would see more kickoffs as he would return 47 of them for 1,291 yards while taking three of them in for touchdowns.  Washington would gain 353 yards rushing on 71 carries (5.0 ave) and have 36 receptions for 213 yards (5.9 ave).  Washington’s third year in the league he would see all of his numbers increase and would lead the NFL in all purpose yards with 2,332.  Ninety-two of those yards would come on a kickoff return touchdown against the Patriots.  During the 2008 season Washington fielded 29 punts for 303 yards and 48 kickoffs for 1,231.  He would also catch 47 passes from Brett Favre for 355 yards (7.6 ave) and carry the ball 76 times for 448 yards (4.6 ave). Off to a promising and lucrative career in the NFL, Washington would have a career altering 2009.  Unhappy with his contract, he would skip voluntary spring sessions.  New coach Rex Ryan would factor Washington more into the running game as he would start off the season with 15, 14 and 12 rushing attempts respectively.  After 6 games Washington would have 856 all purpose yards (324 rushing, 131 receiving).  Less than 5 minutes into game seven Washington would be finished for the season as he suffered a compound fracture to his fibula.  In other words the smaller of his shin bones broke and protruded through his skin.  Not quite what you are looking for during the final year of your rookie contract. Needless to say, Washington was a gifted back who missed out on his payday.  Even though he is 31, the fact that he’s been used primarily as a special teams player for the past three years might actually benefit him in the long run by extending his career.  Hopefully, he recovers quickly from his thigh injury so the Patriots’ offense can benefit from him soon.      Joy Manning is a New England Patriots writer for footballandfutbol.com   Follow her on twitter @joymanningNFL   https://twitter.com/joymanningNFL                              
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