FLORHAM PARK, NJ -- The most exhausted player at the end of the Jets' optional OTA morning practice was Danny Woodhead, a third-year free-agent running back who normally wouldn't be seeing too many snaps this time of year but has been rendered, through various circumstances well beyond his control, the only tailback in camp.
Thomas Jones has been skipping the voluntary portion of the Jets' off-season workout program because he wants a new contract. Leon Washington saw Jones doing that, thought it looked like a good idea and this week decided to do the same. And Shonn Greene, the team's third-round pick from last month's draft, is prohibited by league rules from reporting to camp until Iowa's senior class graduates later this month. That's the threesome that would be getting the reps at tailback under normal circumstances, but while Jets coach Rex Ryan admits to being disappointed by the absence of the two veterans, he claims to not be worried about its impact on the season.
"When we go to play our first game against Houston, I believe both of them are going to be with us and be ready to go," Ryan said.
Lots of time between now and then, obviously, and it's certainly safe to assume the contract situations of Jones and Washington will be settled (one way or the other) by the time the regular season opens. But to equate them at this point would appear to be a mistake.
Jones made a total of $13.1 million over the past two seasons as a part of a contract that he preferred be front-loaded. Slated to make only $900,000 this year, he has decided that's insufficient and wants more. The Jets, understandably, disagree and have decided to play hardball with Jones. The drafting of Greene was intended to send Jones the message that he can be replaced. Greene is a between-the-tackles runner in the mold of Jones, and while obviously he's not as experienced or accomplished as Jones, the team believes that, if it had to, it could plug Greene into that spot this year behind its very good offensive line and be OK.
Washington is a different story. A versatile, do-it-all back with a set of skills that would be difficult to replace with any single player, he is possibly of greater value to the team, which is why they've been negotiating throughout the past few days in an effort to do a new deal with him while they've let Jones twist. Washington is scheduled to make $535,000 this season and believes his pay should be more in line with that of similar backs, such as Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew, who's guaranteed more than $4 million per season under his new four-year contract.
Neither player's agent responded to phone calls or e-mails seeking comment Thursday, but since both are active on Twitter, we're able to keep up at least a little bit on the situations.
Drew Rosenhaus, the agent for Jones, offered a window into the bitterness surrounding that situation earlier this week when he tweeted: "The media has made a big deal about Thomas Jones missing voluntary workouts. Let's see if they take the same approach Leon Washington."
And Alvin Keels, who is Washington's new agent (and perhaps most recently famous as the on-again/off-again agent for Andre Smith) tweeted the following Wednesday afternoon: "Positive talk with the Jets today. Jets fans everything will be fine. Myself and Mike T will put our heads together and continue to work"
As for Ryan, he was asked if he believed his veteran backs would be in camp next month when mandatory workouts began, and he said yes.
"That word, 'Mandatory,' " Ryan said. "I'm not the smartest guy, but I think that means you're supposed to be here. So yeah, I'd expect them to be here."