Now with Seahawks, Washington shows he's back
RENTON, Wash. (AP)
Two months after he suffered a grotesque compound fracture of his right leg that teammates couldn't bear to look at, Leon Washington was already beating the odds.
He walked down the aisle at his wedding last December with no crutches and no walking boot.
''Got that accomplished man, reaching all those goals,'' Washington said.
If being able to walk at his wedding was first on his list of tasks in returning from a career-threatening injury, then Seattle's dynamic running back/returner was able to check off a few more last Sunday against San Diego.
Still got breakaway speed? Check.
Able to make game-changing plays? Check.
Single-handedly lead a team to victory? Check.
''I don't think there's any doubt that he's full speed, full tempo and all of that,'' Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. ''If there was any back-thoughts we had, those were erased now.''
Washington took two kickoffs back for touchdowns in Seattle's 27-20 win over San Diego last Sunday. His first, to open the second half, went for 101 yards while the other in the fourth quarter went for 99. It was a dramatic way for Washington to pronounce himself fully recovered from the broken leg he suffered in Week 7 of the 2009 season.
He finished with 253 yards on kickoffs returns, nearly matching Seattle's offensive output of 271 yards. He was the 10th player in NFL history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game and just the third to have both be for 99 or more yards. Not surprising, Washington was named the NFC special teams player of the week.
Washington would still like to be more of a factor in the Seahawks running game. He had more than 800 yards and six touchdowns running and receiving just two years ago. But from a special teams standpoint, the deal that brought Washington to Seattle from the New York Jets for a fifth-round pick already looked like a colossal steal Sunday night. As Jets coach Rex Ryan told reporters the next day, ''I'm just glad we traded him to an NFC team.''
''He told me that the day he traded me, 'Man Leon, we hate seeing you out in Seattle but we couldn't keep you close,''' Washington recalled.
Washington was deemed expendable in New York after the Jets used a fourth-round pick on former USC star Joe McKnight. When the proposition of acquiring Washington was presented to Carroll, the former USC coach was all for it after having seen Washington's ability while keeping an eye on his former quarterback Mark Sanchez.
But Carroll didn't comprehend how serious Washington's injury was.
It was a simple run play against Oakland last Oct. 25, his first carry of the game. Washington darted for 6 yards, but got rolled up on by Oakland's Tommy Kelly. The compound fracture of his tibia and fibula instantly brought questions about how effective a runner who relied on his speed would be in the future. A metal rod was inserted into his tibia to provide stability. Doctors said recovery would be six to 12 months, although some speculated it could be two years before Washington was back up to speed.
His recovery started with simple things like flexing his injured leg and constantly raising it in the air to make sure his quadriceps muscles didn't become atrophic. He then moved to running and jumping in the pool with the Jets and spent part of the offseason working out at Athletes' Performance in Florida.
When he arrived in Seattle following the trade, Washington went through the daily grind of pushing sleds and doing hundreds of climbs up the steep hill next to the Seahawks practice fields.
During training camp, Washington was brought along slowly, but finally popped for a TD run in Seattle's second preseason game. He raced with his arms out - like a jet - letting everyone know he was flying again.
That was just the precursor to Sunday against the Chargers. With Seattle holding a 10-0 lead, Washington fielded the second-half kickoff 1-yard deep in the end zone and went nearly untouched for the longest return in team history. Then, after Seattle fell into a 20-all tie, Washington took Nate Kaeding's kickoff at the 1, briefly got caught in a pile, then popped free, shook Kaeding and went 99 yards for the winning score.
Before the second return, Seattle special teams captain Roy Lewis told Washington he'd meet him at the goal line. True to his word, Lewis was there as his escort for the final few yards.
''He told his story around and guys understood. It's a healing process, a learning process as far as him getting back to being 100 percent,'' Lewis said. ''He's doing a helluva job. If he isn't 100 percent he damn sure look like it on Sunday.''