After six seasons away from his original NFL team, veteran safety Jim Leonhard donned the Buffalo jersey once again Wednesday after signing with the Bills on Monday. This time, though, he fills out his jersey in a slightly different role.
"I'm trying to get in here and find a role in the defense and get out there and make plays. That's what they brought me in for," Leonhard, 30, told Buffalobills.com. "They brought me in for leadership and knowledge of the system. I've produced in the system. I love these coaches and I believe in what they're saying, and I hope we can get everyone on board."
Leonhard isn't just familiar with the team, he's familiar with defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who coached him with the New York Jets over three years, and worked on the same side of the ball as him for a year in Baltimore. Over those four years, he carved out 254 tackles, the most of his career to date.
Returning to the team with familiarity and confidence, Leonhard said his difference in skill level is liked night and day, and he's ready to bring it back to Buffalo and share it with his teammates.
"I'm excited to come in here. I know it's a young room in the DB room," he said. "(I'm) trying to get a little leadership back there, and as well as knowing the system pretty well, I'll be able to step in and try to communicate with the guys."
In his first day on the field, his teaching role was evident when he pulled rookie defensive backs Duke Williams and Nickell Robey aside to help them understand a play.
"He helped me on the first day out there. Just on those little things that when we're out there, and I need advice, I look at him and try to pick his brain on things," Williams said.
Robey said he is a stand out leader on the team, and his experience against the Patriots doesn't hurt.
"He's a veteran. He's been in the league eight years. I saw him play when I was in college," the cornerback said. "What he brings to the team is knowledge, his wisdom. That veteran wisdom that most people can't say they have on this team because we're a young team."
Although Leonhard is helping to teach rookies, each person has something to offer him, as he admitted he has catching up to do on the defense. Robey said each defender has tried to help Leonhard learn the little details that have been added to the scheme since he last played in it in 2011.
"As far as the overall picture, he knows that. When it comes to the specifics on what we do, what coach Henderson likes us to do, that's what we explain," Robey said.
Leonhard said he is catching on quick, and his previous affiliation with Pettine is a factor. Leonhard told Buffalobills.com that Pettine is a great coach and a great leader. He said he already feels comfortable with the plays, and it speaks to Pettine's talent as a teacher.
The hope, Leonhard said, is he can contribute to the team right away. Early indicators in practice show his involvement in a good number of plays. He said he hopes that is a good sign.
"I got a decent amount of work (Wednesday), but you never know. It is a quick turnaround to get in here on a Monday and try to play the next week," Leonhard said. "I'm not sure of the plan yet, but I'll be ready to go."