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It's tough for injured Washington to sit and watch

New York Jets' Leon Washington is helped off

New York Jets' Leon Washington is helped off the field after an injury against the Oakland Raiders. (Oct. 25, 2009) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The better the Jets perform, the worse Leon Washington feels.

Sure he's pleased with their playoff run and excited to see them go further. He even has embraced watching the team on television from a fan's perspective. But after being sidelined since Week 7 with a broken leg, he can't help but wonder if he's letting the team down by not being there on the field with them.

"I feel like there's something I can do," he said Tuesday in the team's locker room. "Even though they're running the ball so well, playing great, in the playoffs doing the right thing, I still feel like I can be out there helping us be better."

Washington said he hopes to be more of a contributor next season and he believes he is on pace to be ready to play when the 2010 campaign starts in eight months. Doctors estimated his recovery time would be anywhere from six to 12 months, and they recently said he is about two months ahead of the normal schedule.

He's ready to shed his crutches next week, is working on an underwater treadmill, and has X-rays every two weeks to make sure the bone is healing properly.

"The way I'm improving right now, it's looking really good," he said. "I feel I could do more [rehab], but I'm going to do everything the right way."

That, unlike the way he has been known to run with the ball, is slowly and along a straight, prescribed course.

Although most of Washington's focus is on getting back for 2010, watching the 2009 season crescendo has him looking at an even sunnier future.

"Me and [fellow injured player Kris Jenkins] talk about it all the time. Man, we're playing this well and two of the better players aren't in there," Washington said. "We talk about how Mark [Sanchez] is going to be a year wiser next year; he's going to be so much better. The young guys are going to be so much better with the experience they're getting in the playoffs."

And, of course, Washington plans on contributing.

"I've got a long way before the season starts," he said. "Obviously, I'm on pace to be there and open the season. I'm just trying not to push myself too much."

Or punish himself, either.

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