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Leon Washington Conference Call Transcript

Posted Mar 15, 2013

Patriots running back/kick returner Leon Washington addresses the media during his conference call on Friday, March 15, 2013.

Q: Can you talk through the appeal of picking the Patriots versus other teams you may have talked to since you have been a free agent?

LW: Obviously Tampa was interested and Detroit was interested a little bit but when you get an opportunity to play for a coach like Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, and just looking at the history, the way those guys perform on the football field and the way they carry the organization is something that a leader like myself, I want to be a part of, something that can push me and make me a better person and a football player. When I became a free agent, that's one thing I wanted to look at: to go into an organization that believes in winning, who wanted to win the Super Bowl – that was everything – and did things the right way. When I had the opportunity to go to New England, I jumped right on it because they're a perfect fit for being a better person and football player.

Q: Kick returning is something of a younger man's game. How have you been able to excel at it at your age after this many years in the league?

LW: 30 is the new 20, I'm a young man. In all seriousness, it's just something, when it comes to the kick return game, I take it very seriously because I understand how important it can make an impact on the game. If you just think about it, the kick returner is the first person to touch the ball at the beginning of the game or at halftime or after the opposing team scores a field goal or touchdown. You have an opportunity to instantly change the momentum of the game. As a young football player, high school, I knew that and I understand that, so whenever I had the opportunity to return kicks, I took it seriously, from little league football to high school and college. Then I got to the National Football League, the natural running skills of being a running back actually gave me an advantage in the kick return game. I've had some great kick return coaches, special teams coaches throughout my career: [former N.Y. Jets special teams coordinator] Mike Westhoff, [Seattle Seahawks special teams coordinator] Brian Schneider. Coach [Scott] O'Brien, having an opportunity to play for him, he can definitely make my game better also. Just added to going out there and wanting to be the best football player at whatever I do kind of gave me an advantage for me to excel in the kick return game.

Q: Do you look at this as an opportunity to step into a role that the Patriots may have needed to beef up this offseason?

LW: Yeah, you hit it right on the head – the opportunity to help this team out, win football games by returning kicks. The one thing I did know about New England talking to Coach Belichick and talking to Coach O'Brien, they take special teams extremely serious. They feel like if you play special teams in the return game and the coverage part of it, you could actually win the football game by doing it well. By playing against those guys in the AFC East early on in my career when I was with the Jets, I had tremendous respect for guys like Larry Izzo, Kevin Faulk, watching Wes Welker return kicks and stuff like that, I had tremendous respect for those guys. I knew how seriously they took special teams so that was one of the things that helped me make my decision easier because I knew New England took special teams seriously.

Q: Do you have any memories of playing at Gillette Stadium or against the Patriots that stand out?

LW: The big one would be with Brett Favre and company, we came in there in that overtime game against Matt Cassel, we pulled it out. That's a vivid memory – having a good game. I think I actually returned a kickoff return to the house that game. That was pretty special. Joking around with Coach Bill Belichick yesterday, he was like, “Man, whenever we played you guys at the Jets, I used to be like, ‘leave Thomas Jones on the field.'” That was pretty funny. Memories like that, at Gillette Stadium. Now I have an opportunity to go out there and help this team win; be on the same side.

Q: You did not see a lot of action as a running back last year. Where do you consider your game to be at as a running back at this point?

LW: I don't have the pounding on my body. I feel great, I feel healthy. Like you said, I haven't carried the ball much out of the backfield the last two years so if it comes to that, that's what I definitely want to do. I'm a running back at heart. That's something I want to do, but at the end of the day, it's about team football. It's all about the team. I know the way the Patriots do things around here. It's all about the team because if you play as a team, you actually win as a team. When I come in, my role is to come in and help this team out in any way I can, whether it's returning kicks, returning punts – I haven't covered kicks before in my career – or even carrying the ball in the backfield or catching the ball in the backfield. Whatever my role may be with the team, I'm going to do my best and do the best job at it.

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