FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Rex Ryan was his usual jovial self, noting that he probably would have been able to get a romantic movie scene with Heather Locklear if he had opted for lap-band surgery a year ago.
But once yesterday's news conference announcing that the Jets will be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks" concluded and the conversation turned to Leon Washington, Ryan wasn't in much of a joking mood.
Washington, who's still recovering from a broken right fibula, isn't attending the Jets' voluntary offseason workouts, which began this week at the team's training facility. The game-changing running back/kick returner is the lone player who's not participating, and the whole situation has Ryan a bit irked.
"We have the No. 1 facilities in the country," he said. "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 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."
The Jets tendered Washington, a restricted free agent who made $535,000 in base salary last season, at a second-round pick's level. However, he has yet to sign the one-year tender worth $1.759 million. His agent, Alvin Keels, indicated on his Twitter page Monday that Washington will weigh his options and doesn't plan on signing the deal at the moment.
Washington rehabbed at the Jets' facility until earlier this month but hasn't been back since the team informed him of his tender level.
"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," general manager Mike Tannenbaum said. "But with that said, he's not under contract, so he doesn't have to be here."
Still, his absence makes it harder to gauge his progress. Ryan isn't convinced that Washington can handle a high number of touches immediately after recovering from such a gruesome injury.
"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.''
He added: "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.''