Ryan leaves door open for Leonhard to return punts

Getty Images

On Friday, Jets coach Rex Ryan was clear regarding his plan to use rookie Jeremy Kerley to return punts and kickoffs — and to protect safety Jim Leonhard from the risks of special teams, given the broken leg he suffered late last season.

On Saturday, Ryan suggested that his decision isn’t permanent.

As to whether there’s a chance Leonhard will return punts, Ryan said, “I would not rule that out.  There’s a chance.  I’m not comfortable right now.  I’m not comfortable with that.”

In fact, Leonhard could be returning punts with Kerley.  “Jim still wants to be a punt returner and [special teams coach Mike Westhoff], the other day, was telling me, ‘We could run the double returners.  We could do that with Jim.'” Ryan said.  “It’s never hard to say, ‘Westy, no.’  If we needed to catch one or whatever with the game on the line, maybe so, but I don’t feel comfortable right now.”

Much of Ryan’s comfort with Leonhard resuming the punt-return function will depend on how quickly Kerley can show that he’s comfortable handling the job as a first-year player.