Washington expects full recovery

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Leon Washington stepped into the shower and stood there a while as the water washed over him.

It had been three weeks since the New York Jets running back had been able to take one, and it qualified as major progress in his recovery from a broken right leg.

"I'm telling you, it's the little things in life," the Jets running back said with a big smile Thursday. "I've been taking bird baths. That felt really good. I think I stayed in there for 30 minutes."

Washington went from zipping around the field to not being able to do the simplest of tasks when he sustained a compound fracture of the tibia and fibula last month in a game at Oakland.

His right leg, which had a rod inserted into the tibia, is in a sleeve and a bulky boot. Washington walks with crutches and also has a scooter to get around.

"It makes you put a lot of things in perspective," said Washington, speaking at the team's facility for the first time since the injury.

Washington, an All-Pro last season as a kick returner, expects to fully recover and is "very optimistic" about working out with the team when it begins offseason programs in March.

"Infection is the major setback," Washington said. "Thank God I'm 98 or 99 percent past that point. My wounds are healed."

Doctors told him the injury takes anywhere from six to 12 months to heal. The Jets' training staff has talked to a number of players who have suffered similar injuries, including Oakland's Michael Bush and former NFL running back Musa Smith.

"Since I beat the infection part, it's up to me whether it will be on the six-month side or the 12-month side," he said. "They're expecting me to have a full recovery and they're really surprised by my mobility now."

Washington, 27, was injured on his first carry on Oct. 25 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.

"I heard it pop, an automatic pop like I broke my leg," Washington said. "At that point, I was kind of in shock. I didn't really feel a lot of pain."

He stayed down for a few minutes, and his teammates didn't immediately realize the severity of the injury.

"We were changing personnel and I was about to go over there because he was still down, and [Oakland's] Richard Seymour grabbed me and he was like, 'Don't go over there. It's out. It's bad,'" fullback Tony Richardson said. "He pulled me away and I was so glad I didn't see that."

Coach Rex Ryan thought Washington had just sprained an ankle.

"Then, when they took him across directly, through the Raiders' sideline, I was like, 'Man, this must be worse than I think,'" Ryan said.

Washington said thoughts raced through his mind, such as wondering what exactly was broken and how long he might be sidelined.

"Then I got off to the sideline and I saw blood coming through the sock," he said. "When I saw that, it's kind of like, 'OK, that's a little serious.'"

It was a massive loss for the Jets, who relied on Washington as a game-changing playmaker on offense and special teams.

"Obviously, injuries are a part of the business, but to me, Leon's like a little brother," Richardson said. "You can't find a man in this locker room who doesn't love Leon Washington."

Washington returned to the facility recently to rehabilitate the leg. He has also renewed his faith in God, which has helped him deal with the ramifications of the injury, including his uncertain contract status.

He opted to play out the final year of his rookie deal -- worth $535,000 -- rather than hold out or accept the Jets' proposed contract extension. Washington, who would be a restricted free agent under the current collective bargaining agreement, was looking for about $6 million a year. He said general manager Mike Tannenbaum told him the team would revisit his contract situation after the season.

Despite all that, Washington has no regrets about how things played out.

"Not at all," he said. "If I would do it all over again and could flash back, it would be the same thing."

Washington said his current rehab consists of strengthening everything around the injury -- the quadriceps, hamstrings, knee -- until he can walk on his own. He's also thankful there was no damage to his knee or ankle.

"It's all bone, so it's basically just letting that bone heal up," he said. "I'm able to move my knee and my ankle, which is the most important thing. I'm glad to be at that point, so I think I'll be back on track."