Rex Ryan and the Jets will be without the playmaking Washington for the rest of the season after placing the running back-kick returner on season-ending injured reserve Monday with a broken right leg.
"It's horribly unfortunate and really makes you think about how quickly things can be taken from you," center Nick Mangold said.
Washington suffered a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula when Oakland's Tommy Kelly rolled up on his leg after a 6-yard run in the first quarter of the Jets' 38-0 win Sunday.
He was carted off the field and had X-rays, which revealed the fractures. Washington, 27, was taken to Berkeley's Alta Bates Medical Center, where he underwent a two-hour operation Sunday to have a rod inserted into the tibia to stabilize the fracture. The team said doctors expect the fibula to heal on its own.
"We think he's going to make a full recovery, so we're certainly hopeful of that," said Ryan, who spoke to Washington on Sunday night. "We're encouraged by that."
Washington will remain for a few days in California, where his fiancee, Charity Young, flew in from New Jersey to be with him. He could return home as soon as Wednesday, and owner Woody Johnson will have Washington flown back on his private jet.
"It's just a tough loss," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "He's a big part of our offense and he's put up big numbers since he's been a New York Jet. To have him gone for the season, that's a big playmaker that we're losing."
Washington's injury came a week after the Jets lost nose tackle Kris Jenkins for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"This is kind of going crazy the last two weeks," Revis said.
There's also some uncertainty about Washington's contract status after he chose to play out the final year of his rookie deal -- worth $535,000 -- rather than accept the Jets' proposed contract extension that included $5 million in guarantees. Washington, who would be a restricted free agent under the current collective bargaining agreement, was looking for about $6 million a year. He sat out the first three weeks of organized team activities before returning in minicamp "in good faith."
Washington believed he was worth the money he was requesting because of his versatility. He's a shifty and speedy complement to Thomas Jones in the backfield, is an outstanding receiver and made the Pro Bowl last season as a kick returner. He also took snaps in the team's Seminole formation.
Now Ryan's task is finding someone to fill in.
"Maybe three or four guys have to replace him," Ryan said. "There's no way one guy can replace him. There's no way that can happen."
With Washington out, rookie Shonn Greene stepped in and had a terrific performance in his first extended action. He ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries while helping the Jets rush for 316 yards and become the first team since Buffalo in 1975 to run for at least 300 yards in consecutive games.
"I just look forward to more opportunities," Greene said. "I'm not going to fill Leon's shoes, but I'm going to do the best I can."
Running back-turned-wide receiver Danny Woodhead could also help fill in on kickoffs and in the backfield. The former NCAA career rushing leader who was undrafted out of Chadron State in 2008 because of his size -- he's 5-foot-7 -- was converted to wide receiver two weeks ago because Ryan thought that would be his best chance of playing.
"The great thing about Danny is he's smart, he knows those positions," Ryan said. "He's just short, but he's a talent. You don't run for the type of yardage he did in college and not have some talent. He's also got great hands, so we can certainly do some of the things that we did with Leon with Danny."
Jones, who at 31 is fourth in the NFL with 602 yards rushing, could also see an increase in carries -- although he had more than 20 in each of the last two games. Ryan added the Jets could also still run their Seminole offense when quarterback-turned-wide receiver Brad Smith returns from a quadriceps injury.
"It just devastates you," Ryan said of Washington. "You feel for him."