Ryan breaks promise to Leonhard's wife

Jim Leonhard #36 of the New York Jets

Jim Leonhard #36 of the New York Jets in action against the Buffalo Bills. (Nov. 27, 2011) (Credit: Jim McIsaac)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan told Jim Leonhard's wife, Katie, earlier this season that she had nothing to worry about, assuring her that Leonhard's days as a punt returner were finished.

So once Ryan recently reneged on his word because of a combination of injuries and costly muffs, he knew he had some serious explaining to do in order to keep the peace in the Leonhard household.

"I had to go about it and say, 'Hey, have your wife call me,' " Ryan said Thursday. "It's one of those things."

Leonhard said: "My wife has let him hear it. She's let him have it a couple of times. She called him out on his lie, which is good. You have to do that, right? That's how you keep people in check."

Because of Leonhard's importance to the team and his broken leg last year, Ryan never really wanted to have him field punts again. Plus, the Jets were comfortable with rookie Jeremy Kerley there anyway. But after his muff in Sunday's win over the Redskins, Ryan decided to let the surehanded Leonhard take center stage on punt returns.

The Jets have had a special- teams turnover in each of their past four games, and that unit's six turnovers -- three muffed punts and three fumbled kickoffs that led to 20 points -- are the most in the NFL.

"I've led the league in a bunch of categories," special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff said. "I haven't led it in this one yet. Of course, it bothers me. Trust me, I don't like it. It's frustrating for me, but at the same time, what do you want me to do?

"You've just got to live with it, move on and hope that you've improved it, and you get better and better. So that's how you deal with those things."

Since Westhoff joined the Jets in 2001, they've returned 15 kickoffs for touchdowns, best in the league. Their 22 special-teams TDs rank second during that span, and 16 came in games decided by seven points or fewer.

Joe McKnight ran back a kickoff 107 yards in Week 4 but has fumbled twice on special teams. Antonio Cromartie also has coughed it up twice. Cromartie will return kicks against the Chiefs Sunday if McKnight can't play because of a hyperextended right elbow.

"We've just got to try to eliminate those mistakes and protect the football," Cromartie said. "Half of it is not even us carrying the ball. It's us coming up and catching the ball."

In seven NFL seasons, Leonhard has a 10.1-yard average on punt returns. He's never taken one to the end zone, but in 81 returns and 49 fair catches, he's never lost a fumble.

"To continue to turn the ball over,'' Leonhard said, "you can't have that, because it will hurt you, and it has hurt us. To get to where we want, we can't let that continue to happen."

If they do, Westhoff probably will let them have it. They've escaped his wrath for the past few days.

"The week isn't over yet," McKnight said. "We're still waiting on it."

Notes & quotes: G Brandon Moore (hip) didn't practice again, but Ryan is sure he'll play Sunday . . . Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer on consultant Tom Moore hanging around for the rest of the season: "I wish I had this guy eight years ago. He's that type of guy, and I've never felt threatened by Tom. I love having him around."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

NFL videos

advertisement | advertise on newsday