Florham Park, N.J.– It couldn’t have happened at a worse time or in a worse way. Safety Jim Leonhard, the quarterback of the Jets defense, became a casualty of a practice mishap that left him with a fractured tibia in his right leg after WR Patrick Turner crashed into his leg. And of course it happened just days before the Jets regular season blowout loss to the hated New England Patriots.
After watching last season end while stuck on the sidelines and after months of being cut off from the team because of the lockout Leonhard is itching to get back to playing some full speed football.
If you think the lockout was hell for you, just imagine what it was like for Leonhard to rehab his broken leg all on his own, cut off from any type of treatment or even contact with his normal team doctors, a different sort of casualty Leonhard was forced to suffer though due to no fault of his own.
“(I’m) Basically going through individuals and just kind of the beginning practice, doing all the walk-thrus and stuff like that and they’re holding me out of some of the team stuff now.” Leonhard said of where he is at physically now, “I feel more than confident doing it, but this is kind of one of those lockout casualties. The training staff hasn’t been able to see me so, they can take me at my word, but they’re going to be careful and make sure I’m where I say I am.”
Leonhard said he rehabbed, “As much as possible really. Obviously with the offseason you have different family and different demands, travel, schedule and stuff like that, but I’d try and get in there as consistently as possible. If I could get in there everyday I went in everyday, but just made sure we stayed on top of it and just the little things.”
The most important thing for Leonhard, isn’t how good he feels, but how safe he is about pushing himself further than he should. “The main focus the whole time, because I came back a little bit quicker than they expected so they just wanted me to relax.” Leonhard said, “Make sure I didn’t take any steps back so when we got to this point you can be ready to roll.”
And that’s where having the team trainers comes in handy because Leonhard admits he feels great, but he probably shouldn’t be trusted to decide when enough is enough.
“Right now it’s kind of up to the trainers, I feel comfortable doing everything, but the training staff hasn’t seen me all offseason so they’re just taking it slow and making sure the conditioning is where it needs to be. Just the day-to-day, going three, four, five, six days in a row I don’t get any soreness.”
The pain and suffering of the injury was bad enough, then to add the lockout and rehab process makes it a much more grueling ordeal, but neither of those things were the toughest part of it all according to Leonhard. No the toughest part was being away from his friends, teammates and trainers.
“Honestly the toughest thing was just not being here. Not being able to have that communication with the trainers on a daily basis, you know this is how it’s feeling, this is where I’m at. Whether you need to go up or down, you’re kind of doing that a little bit more on yourself.” Leonhard said, “We set up a great program back in Madison (WI), for me but just not being able to talk to your trainers, the guys you’re really comfortable with. That was problem the hardest thing and just time, you want to get back out there so fast, but you know that you have to be patient and make sure that you don’t take any steps back.”
It’s obviously a delicate balancing act, the Jets need to push him hard enough for him to be ready to contribute on week one, but not push him so hard he suffers a set back. Exactly how they will attack this problem will change on a day-to-day basis, but it’s clear he wants to strap on the shoulder pads and helmet and starting laying people out again as soon as possible.
“It’s hard to say, obviously with these first couple of days (it’s) a lot of instillation and different things like that. It’s a little slower pace than we are normally at so its not huge now (with me) being in the system now for four years, but once we get the pads on and things like that I’m definitely going to be itching and ready to go.”
No wonder Leonhard is a Rex Ryan favorite, he plays like a Jet and even rehabs like a Jet.
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