New York Jets' Brad Smith (16 ) returns the opening...

New York Jets' Brad Smith (16 ) returns the opening kickoff past Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Mundy (29) and kicker Shaun Suisham for a touchdown. (Dec. 19, 2010) Credit: AP

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Brad Smith knew long before last Sunday's kickoff against the Patriots that he wasn't going to be suiting up.

"Rex [Ryan] came to me probably the night before," Smith said Wednesday, "and said what they're thinking. He told me that 'We are going to get it done, you just get better for next week.' And since then the plan kind of took shape."

It's right on target, too. Smith's groin injury is healing sufficiently, and although he was limited in practice, the versatile receiver/kickoff returner has every intention of playing in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Steelers.

"I'm very confident," said Smith, who was injured covering a punt in the first quarter of the wild-card win over the Colts. "I'm very encouraged by practice today. Went out and did a lot more, got to return a few kicks, did a lot on offense and things like that. So I'm just happy to be back on the field.''

Smith said he probably won't be pain-free but still expects to return kickoffs, a job handled mostly by Antonio Cromartie since he's been out.

"That's the plan, to try to be smart this week and not to do too much and have a setback," Smith said. "They had to pull me out today because I just felt like I could keep going. But [we're] just taking it one day at a time, and hopefully, I can do a little bit more tomorrow."

Leonhard recuperating

Jim Leonhard's broken right tibia is getting better by the day, and the safety plans on attending his first game since suffering the gruesome injury Dec. 3 in practice.

"I'm off the crutches, off the scooter and moving around a lot better," Leonhard said. "Still waiting for the bone to completely heal, but it's well along the way and it's still the beginning of the process. I'm hitting every landmark that they've been giving me so far."

As for when he'll be up and running, he said: "At least a couple months. Not 100 percent. But I know this is something that just takes time. The biggest thing is you don't want to have a setback. The great thing about this is there's no rush."

Rex: Room for everyone

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said the Jets belong to his state. Rex Ryan said he has no problem spreading the love - to everybody.

"There's enough of the Jets to go around," Ryan said. "We're happy to be the New Jersey Jets, New York Jets. This is our whole area and before too long, hopefully we'll be the type of team the whole country wants to embrace."

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