Friday, March 15, 2013
Washington: A win-win opportunity
By Field Yates
When he recently became a free agent, new Patriots running back Leon Washington prioritized the opportunity to win when deciding on his new team.
"The opportunity to play for a coach like Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, you look at the history and the way they play on the football field, and the way they play as an organization, it's something that the leaders, or myself, I want to be a part of," he said in an introductory conference call on Friday afternoon. "[I wanted an organization] 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. I looked at an organization that believes in winning, who wants to win the Super Bowl, and every day they [do] things the right way."
For the Patriots, Washington projects to compete for the starting kickoff return duties, an area he's excelled at throughout his career. In fact, he shares the NFL record for most kickoff returns for a touchdown in his career with eight.
The Patriots averaged just 21.2 yards per kickoff return last season, 25th in the NFL. Washington was second among returners with a 29.0 yard average.
The opportunity to help in that area is part of what enticed Washington to join the Patriots over other suitors, which he said included the Lions and Buccaneers.
"You hit it right on the head -- the opportunity to help the team out winning games by returning kicks," said Washington, who turns 31 in August. "One thing I did know about New England is that in talking to coach Bill Belichick and talking to [special-teams] coach Scott O'Brien, they take special teams extremely seriously. They feel like if you play special teams -- the return game and the coverage part of it too -- you can actually win a football game by doing either one of them."
When asked how he continues to be successful as a returner in a league that features many top returners in their early 20s, Washington said with a laugh, "Man, 30 is the new 20. I'm a young man."