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Leonhard vows to return, but for whom?

Jim Leonhard vowed to be back in 2012, but he's not sure if it'll be with the Jets.

The veteran safety, who will undergo surgery Wednesday morning to repair a torn patellar tendon in his right knee, admitted Tuesday his uncertain future already has crossed his mind. He becomes an unrestricted free agent after the season.

"Absolutely," Leonhard said on his weekly radio spot on WFAN. "That’s kind of where your mind goes right away: What’s next? Obviously, I don’t have a contract after this year and, coming off back-to-back injuries like this, you’re going to get that tag.

"I've loved my experience here. Whatever happens, I'm going to be back (somewhere). I'm going to rehab this thing as hard as I can. One thing I can say, I've always come back from things like this stronger."

Leonhard suffered a badly broken leg last December and was 100 percent by the start of training camp. This time, the timing couldn't be worse because he's looking at a six- to nine-month rehab, and he's due to hit the open market in March. As much as they admire Leonhard, the Jets probably will have to find another starting safety.

Leonhard said the season-ending injuries were "eerily similar" because they happened almost one year apart, and he called them "two kind of flukey things." On Sunday, he tore the ligament on an interception. It looked like his knee was twisted when Chiefs WR Steve Breaston grabbed Leonhard's ankle from behind, but Leonhard said it occurred before that awkward movement.

"I talked to the doctor and I was like, 'I think he hit me directly on the knee,'" Leonhard said. " ... He kind of gave me a goofy look. Once I saw the replay, he didn’t touch my knee. It went before he ended up grabbing my ankle. I tried to hop out of it. Once I tried to do something with that leg, I realized nothing was happening. I decided to go down and get the docs out there."

Leonhard said he has confidence in his replacement, Brodney Pool, adding that he believes the defense will adjust better than it did last season in the aftermath of his injury. A year ago, it "threw everything out of whack" because the broken leg happened three days before a critical game against the Patriots, a "really awkward time to have an injury."

"The fact that we’ve been through it before, it’s not as big a shock to the guys," he said, adding, "I don't think it’s going to be quite as devastating as it was last year, just from a timing aspect."

Leonhard also expressed confidence in rookie Jeremy Kerley, who becomes the full-time punt returner -- again. Leonhard believes Kerley, who muffed a punt last week against the Redskins, was made a scapegoat because of the recent fumbling issues on special teams.

"It was three or four weeks in a row and, all of a sudden, it was like everyone was extremely frustrated and took it out on him a little bit," Leonhard said.

Leonhard was philosophical on his injury, saying he believes it happened for a reason. He and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy, in less than two weeks.

"That might be the reason," he said.