I’m sure Jim Leonhard wasn’t trying to make a statement today at Owings Mills, but his words resonated loudly though an otherwise quiet Ravens’ locker room.
The diminutive safety who drew widespread praise from teammates, fans and media spoke at length this afternoon about the ’08 campaign and his future both with the Ravens and, possibly, with Rex Ryan.
“This loss hurts so much because it could be the kind of opportunity we don’t get again in the future,” Leonhard remarked. ”We knew it was a one-game winner take all kind of deal and we felt good about our chances. But, when you have that chance, you have to capitalize and we didn’t.”
Leonhard was a terrific off-season signing for Baltimore but his one-year contract leaves him open and available to the highest bidder, a fact he noted works in his favor now.
“I think I proved to everyone that I can play in this league and I can contribute a great deal to the team,” he said. “I’d like to think people in Baltimore and around the league see me as a starter. That’s my goal, obviously, because everyone who plays in the league wants to start. But I enjoyed my time here a lot and if they want me back and we can work something out, I’d definitely consider it.”
Leonhard’s defensive coordinator in Baltimore was Rex Ryan. If he does return to Baltimore, Leonhard will have a new boss, because Ryan has accepted the Head Coach position with the New York Jets. Leonhard talked openly about the possibility of moving on to New York with his erstwhile defensive chief. ”Rex is a great coach and I’d love to play for him if that’s where this takes me. I see him as a guy with a lot of potential and it’s really going to depend on who wants me and what my role is going to be with that team.”
An early-season injury to Dawan Landry catapulted Leonhard into the starting safety position and he not only became a strong force in the secondary, he helped solidify Baltimore’s special teams unit as the team’s main punt returner over the last half of the season.
“We had a heck of a run, but we came up short and now it’s time for everyone to sit back and decide where they go from here,” he said. ”I’m open to moving on if I have to, but I like Baltimore and think this is a team that can win again real soon.”