Rex Ryan is a bit sour on Leon Washington.
Washington is the lone player who's not participating in the Jets' voluntary offseason workouts at The Hangar, opting to stay away in a contact dispute. The Jets tendered the dynamic running back/kick returner at a second-round level -- earning him a 2010 salary of $1.759 million -- but agent Alvin Keels wrote on Twitter earlier this week that his client wouldn't be signing the tender at the moment.
Washington, who's still rehabilitating his broken right fibula, hasn't been at The Hangar since the Jets tendered him in early March. That isn't sitting well with Ryan.
“We have the No. 1 facilities in the country,” Ryan said today after the Jets finished up their formal press conference announcing they'll be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks."
“We have a great medical staff, a great medical team. We’ve got the best strength coach in the country. Leon knows this and that’s what’s disappointing. Wherever he’s at might be good, but it’s not the best and I want what’s best for him and for the New York Jets. This is a time when there’s team building. This guy is a great young man. I love Leon, but it’s still disappointing that he’s not here.”
"This is a voluntary deal, don’t get me wrong," Ryan added. "This is a voluntary thing and he may have reasons for not being here or whatever. But the rest of the team volunteered to be here and we would love to get Leon back."
Ryan isn't the only member of the Jets' hierarchy who wants to see Washington back at the facility, which would give them 100 percent attendance for the, um, voluntary program. GM Mike Tannenbaum is just as disappointed.
"My feeling is we are in the voluntary part of the offseason program," Tannenbaum said when I asked him for his thoughts on the situation. "With that said, I really believe in our program. If you go back over a long period of time now, we always have one of the fewest number of players on IR of anybody in the NFL. And that's not a coincidence because John Mellody and Sal Alosi do such a great job. Rex refers to it as this is the team building part of the program.
"You have that and you have, obviously, the best complex in the world. So for a player not to take advantage of it ... he has every right and reason to do that. I always feel like it’s in the player’s best interest to be here because I think it gives them a chance to be successful."
"But with that said, he’s not under contract so he doesn’t have to be here. Knowing Leon, he’ll be ready to go because of his work ethic. My feeling is -- and I’m biased because I’m here every day -- I think the resources here are second to none. So we are going to put those resources into the players that are here and we’ll move forward from there."
Ryan was also asked about his comments on Washington from earlier in the week down at the owners meetings in Orlando, when he told a small group of reporters that included our Bob Glauber he envisioned Washington as a third-down specialist and a kick returner.
“I said he’s a third-down back and a Pro Bowl returner and that’s a pretty big thing,” Ryan said. “Do we expect him to come back from the surgery he had … and you’re going to put him in there instead of Shonn Greene or LaDainian Tomlinson? Maybe you would. I’m not comfortable with that. But let’s see where he’s at."
Washington is supposed to be ready to go by training camp. But who knows exactly how his body will respond and the kind of workload he can handle?
“I’m not just going to give him the ball 20 times a game coming off of that," Ryan said. "He has to be ready to take that kind of role. If he’s ready to take an expanded role, then obviously we could see that. But again, third down is the most important down that you have on offense and that would be an ideal situation. We have three great backs.”
Potentially, Washington's absence could lessen his chances of being 100 percent completely healed, perhaps pushing back his timetable. Ryan didn't dispute that possibility, and that's yet another reason why the Jets would prefer if Washington was around.
"I would think if you have the best chance with the guys that you have -- and Leon knows this -- that would be where you would want to be," Ryan said. "This is a huge year for us as an organization, it’s a huge year for Leon personally. Let’s try to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful.”
We'll now step aside from the Washington Soap Opera and get to a few other topics Ryan touched on today. I asked him about the prospect of still re-signing K Jay Feely.
Ryan absolutely loves Feely and raved about him when I talked to him for a feature on Feely that I was working on near the end of the season. So, I wanted to get Rex's take on the signing of K Nick Folk and where that leaves Feely in the grand scheme of things.
"We’ll see," Ryan said. "We’re always open to any situation. But right now, we’ve got Nick Folk and we are happy to have him. But you guys know how I felt about Jay and feel about Jay. I think he’s a tremendous kicker and a tremendous person. We'll see what happens."
The same could be said about DE Marques Douglas. The veteran currently remains off the Jets' radar in part because he's searching for a lucrative deal -- one that apparently Ryan hopes the run stuffer finds.
Douglas, who made $745,000 last season and just turned 33 years old March 15, could be looking for what might wind up as his final NFL contract. He's reportedly garnered interest from the Patriots, and the Panthers, Bucs and Titans are said to be thinking of adding his services.
Ryan didn't completely close the door on Douglas, but it sounds as if it's a one-and-done season for a guy who was a solid locker room presence.
"There’s still a chance, but again in all fairness to Marques, I said if you can get it, go get it," Ryan said. "If you can get the big contract, then go get it because we have so many young guys behind Marques. I just felt that if he can get the big contract ... I respect all our players and Marques Douglas is a guy that I’ve personally been around for a long time. And this will probably be his last year playing.
"He may have one or two years left. But if he can get a big deal from somewhere else, he's got my blessing. I want it for him and his family. Recently, he had his first son. So that's probably the bigger picture. Would I like to have him here? Of course."
I asked Ryan if Douglas doesn't get that big deal, does that mean he might return to the Jets?
"Yeah," Ryan said, "absolutely."
But don't bank on it, though.
So now, with the likes of RB Thomas Jones gone, and people like Feely and Douglas possibly having played their last game in a Jets uniform, the Jets could be tinkering a bit too much with the great locker room chemistry that was prevalent last season.
Ryan, however, doesn't believe so.
"I think the big thing [is] that we have a responsibility as an organization to try to field the best team you possibly can field," he said. "And you can't just keep everybody the same. Are you getting better or are you getting worse? And I think with us right now, we’re trying to get better. We challenged our team, challenged our coaches, myself, everybody get better.
"And I think we have gotten better this offseason."