Kick returner/running back Leon Washington, who signed a one-year contract with New England this week, spoke to the media via telephone today about becoming a member of the Patriots.
Washington, who spent the last three seasons with Seattle after a draft day trade in 2010, said that after becoming a free agent, his priority was to join an organization that believes in winning and special teams.
“With the opportunity to play with Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, you look at the history, the way those guys carry themselves on the football field, and the way they play as an organization, it’s something that the leaders, or myself, want to be a part of,” Washington said. “[I wanted to be part of a team] that can push me and make me a better person and a better football player. When I became a free agent, that’s one thing I wanted. I looked at an organization that believes in winning, who wants to win the Super Bowl, and every day they do things the right way… With the opportunity to go to New England, I jumped right on it. It was a perfect fit.”
When it was pointed out that kick returning might be better suited to a younger player, the 30-year-old Washington jokingly replied: “Man, 30 is the new 20. I’m a young man.”
Washington said the Patriots provided him with the best opportunity to contribute to a winning organization.
“You need to have the opportunity to help a team out winning games by returning kicks,” Washington said. “One thing I did know about New England is that in talking to coach Bill Belichick and talking to [special teams] coach Scott O’Brien, they take special teams extremely seriously. They feel like if you play special teams — the return game and the coverage part of it too — you can actually win a football game by doing either one of them… that helped make my decision.”
The 5-foot-8-inch, 203-pound Washington hasn’t been much of a contributor as a running back — he recorded 23 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown last season with the Seahawks.
“I feel great, I feel healthy,” Washington said. “I haven’t carried the ball much the last two years, but that’s what I want to do, I’m a running back … but it’s all about the team. My role is to come in and help the team out anyway I can — return, run, whatever my role is, I’ll do the best job at it.”
This will be Washington’s second time playing for a team in the AFC East. He was drafted by the Jets in 2006 and spent four seasons in New York.
Washington had 1,140 combined kickoff and punt return yards and one touchdown last season with Seattle, averaging 29 yards per kickoff return. He’s had eight kickoff returns for touchdowns in his career.