FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Leon Washington is ready to do more than just return kicks and punts for the New England Patriots.
But if that’s all the free agent signee gets to do for his new team, he sounds ready to live with it.
“Ever since I was a rookie, I was always a team player,” Washington said Sunday, after the team’s first full-pads practice. “That’s been my main focus. Knowing I could do so many different things well — running the ball, catching the ball, returning kicks, (I) even made tackles (on special teams) sometimes in my career.
“That’s the same approach I have here — coming in, helping the team out the best way I can.”
Washington, now 30, debuted with the New York Jets and played the last three seasons with Seattle. A 98-yard kick return for a touchdown last year gave him eight kick return TDs in his seven-year career, tying him with Josh Cribbs for the NFL record.
With Danny Woodhead leaving the Patriots for San Diego, there’s an opening for an all-purpose third-down back in New England. Shane Vereen will likely get most of that work and there’s a chance Washington won’t get much time.
“He’s played back there before but not a lot recently with the Seahawks,” Coach Bill Belichick said. “We’ll put him in our system, teach him the things that he needs to learn at that position, evaluate him with the other players.”
Washington’s offensive plays indeed dwindled the last two years. Asked if that was disappointing, he said, “No, not really.
“Obviously, I’m a competitor and want to be on the football field, want to be out there and help the team out as much as I can. But not really — we won a bunch of games when I was in Seattle, being a team player is the most important thing.”
He said he came to New England for the “obvious” reasons.
“You watch this organization from afar, you see how well they do things here,” he said. “It’s a winning organization. They believe in winning, they believe in competing.
“The most important thing that I love, that I’ve seen so far, is everybody is all about the team. Everybody is going to do whatever they do to help the team win. That’s impressive, watching it from afar. Everything when they guys come out and compete, hear them talking to the media, hear guys talking in the weight room, everything is all about the team.”
Belichick said the first day in pads is the start of the evaluation process of the bigger players on the team — the tacklers and blockers.
“It feels great,” said veteran guard Logan Mankins, who spent much of his morning dealing with Vince Wilfork on the other side of the line. “Pretty tired right now but it’s always nice to start playing real football — to see where you’re at, where you need to go.”
Wilfork stripped Stevan Ridley of the ball in a goal-line situation, one of two fumbles by Ridley on the day — Jerod Mayo snared the other one out of the air — which led to some extra running for the back.
NOTES: Tim Tebow was a bit better on Day 3 — hardly perfect, but better — connecting on a pair of long touchdown passes. … Tom Brady had a pass intercepted by Kyle Arrington. … Rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson had another strong day and fellow rookie Josh Boyce made his first impression. … Actor Robert Duvall, who has visited the Whitey Bulger murder trial, was at camp chatting with New England owner Robert Kraft.