FOXBORO -- Leon Washington looked out from his precarious perch on New England's roster bubble Thursday night and surveyed the scene. The 31-year old running back had put 10 punt and three kickoff returns in the book after four preseason games. Five rushes for 22 yards were tacked on as a footnote.
Are those numbers enough to protect his neck from final roster cuts?
Washington shrugged with veteran ease.
"One thing I have perspective of is life after football. I've been in the league almost eight years now so I understand that part of it," he said. "Young guys don't get it because it seems like they can play football forever. But right now I'm just enjoying playing it, loving it, so it's been cool.
"I broke my leg [in 2009] when I was with the Jets and I thought I'd never play football again. I told myself, whenever I get an opportunity to play, never turn it down."
His performance in the preseason finale, a 28-20 win over the Giants, kept him squarely on the fence. Washington showed he still has gas in the tank with an excellent 43-yard punt return in the second quarter. But in the third, he misjudged a bouncing punt, trying to wrangle the high-flying ball instead of letting it come safely to rest, and fumbled away possession.
Again, Washington shrugged.
"That's one thing about football -- we see so much glory when we do well. But in times when guys get injured or guys get released, it's real life. For me, an older guy in the locker room, I try to explain that to a lot of young guys to have a backup plan, take this approach seriously, and just keep fighting. It's tough, but all the guys understand; we know what we've signed up for."
While no other Patriot has fielded more kickoffs than Washington's three, it is surprising that the returner with the second-best average in 2012 (29.0 yards) wasn't given the lion's share of responsibility. Four other players -- Josh Boyce, Matt Slater, LeGarrette Blount, and Julian Edelman -- took kick returns instead of the supposed specialist.
Washington waved it off. He denied preseason return numbers as a measuring stick and pointed instead to practice. There, in the daily workout grind, is where he believes his best efforts live.
There's nothing a guy can add at this point, anyway.
"To be honest with you, no, I don't worry about it," Washington said before packing up. "I've got three beautiful boys and a wife at home, and I love to play football. I don't worry about it."