Coming off the 2013 season, in which Cleveland lost T.J. Ward to Denver, the Cleveland Browns were looking to solidify the safety position. They did just that by bringing in hometown boy Donte Whitner—and then added Jim Leonhard for added depth. It seemed only natural that the Browns would bring in Leonhard, who served under coach Mike Pettine’s defensive schemes in Buffalo and in New York with the Jets.
I was pleased that the Browns brought in some veteran guys on defense last offseason and Leonhard was a solid addition. He wasn’t just some old guy who was there to give pep talks in the locker room and take up roster space. Leonhard still contributed a lot this season for us. Not only did he motivate our younger players and play a great defensive game, he even filled in on punt and kick returns, something truly impressive for a 32-year-old defensive back.
He had quite a day against Indianapolis this past year, recording a sack on Andrew Luck and an interception. He was all over one of the premier QB’s in this league that day and it was fun to watch. I particularly enjoy seeing defensive backs sack a QB, as it's usually a ballsy move on the defensive coordinator’s part to pull that one off. He also had an interception against his former team, the Buffalo Bills, the game before that one.
There just wasn’t a ton of things to chronicle about what Leonhard did for us this year, but his actions could speak louder than any words for what he did on the playing field. He was a true vet—and he played like one—gaining the respect of his teammates and coaching staff. Leonhard admitted he could play football a few more years but decided to call it quits. I respect a player like that, one that doesn’t feel obligated to play more just because he has some years left. Maybe we’ll see him as a coach somewhere down the road.
Thanks for the hard work, Jim!