From some 2,500 miles away on the other side of the country, there was a vibrant sense of energy and enthusiasm emanating from Leon Washington’s voice over the phone.
After four years with the Jets, Washington was raving about his new team, the Seahawks, and his new coach, Pete Carroll, predicting big things to come in Seattle.
But when the topic of his close friend Darrelle Revis, who held out of training camp for a fourth consecutive day yesterday in a contract dispute, was broached, Washington’s mood darkened.
“I feel really sorry for him, I really do, because Darrelle loves to play football and he wants to be out there on the field with his teammates,” Washington told The Post in an exclusive interview. “I know he really wants to show the fans that he really wants to be a Jet.”
Washington has been watching the Revis holdout unfold with both interest and disappointment from afar, but he’s stayed in contact with his former teammate and tried to help him through this crisis.
Because of his relationship with Revis and because he went through a similar contract dispute with the Jets that went bad a year ago, Washington has unwittingly become a significant player in this dispute.
Sources close to Revis have said openly that it was Washington’s plight last year that has had the most profound influence on Revis as he pondered a training camp holdout.
Washington, who has stayed in contact with Revis, has tried to counsel him based on his experience.
“All I’ve ever done with Darrelle is say, ‘Look at my situation and be your own man and learn from it,’ ” Washington said. “I didn’t tell him what do to. I just told him how everything went down and I told him look at my situation and learn from it. I broke everything down for him. I gave him the details and specifics about my whole negotiation process.”
It was last year when Washington, one of the most popular players in the Jets’ locker room, was embroiled in his own contract skirmish with team management and, in the end, it didn’t work out very well.
Washington never got the contract he was seeking (though the Jets say they offered him one with $10 million in guarantees that Washington rejected) and he suffered a scary compound leg fracture in the sixth game of the season, against the Raiders in Oakland.
That left Washington out for the season on crutches and rehabilitating and with no financial security to fall back on.
The Jets subsequently traded him for a fifth-round draft pick to Seattle, where he’s hoping to return from the serious injury that offers no guarantees that he will remain the dynamic player he once was before the injury.
Washington’s situation quickly became a cautionary tale inside the Jets’ locker room — most particularly for Revis, whose refusal to play for the $1 million he’s scheduled to make in 2010 with no new contract with guaranteed money as security has stemmed from what he saw his former teammate go through.
Seeing Revis hold out has saddened Washington, but he understands his reasoning.
Washington said the decision to hold out was “absolutely tough” on Revis, “really tough,” he said.
“He’s told me he really wanted to go [to camp],” Washington said. “He was really excited because the Jets have a good chance of going to the Super Bowl. What hurts him most is the fans are like, ‘You should be out there.’ But he has a family, too.”
With that, Washington politely said goodbye and when he did his voice no longer had that sense of enthusiasm it had at the start of the conversation. He sounded saddened for what his close friend was going through.
“It’s unfortunate, man,” Washington said. “Hopefully it will work out.”
Tags: coach pete carroll, Contract Dispute, Disappointment, Former Teammate, Jets, Leon Washington, Locker Room, Negotiation Process, Plight, Relationship, Revis, Seahawks, Seattle, Skirmish, Specifics, Teammates, training camp
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