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Leonhard yields big return for Ravens
By Edward Lee |
7:01 PM EST, December 26, 2008

Punt returns boast chaos and random patterns, daring teams to sift through the unpredictability to -- depending on your viewpoint -- either find the returner or the end zone.

And Jim Leonhard loves it.


Leonhard seems to contradict the image of many NFL players. At 5 feet 8 and 186 pounds, he isn't terribly big. His speed -- while better than average -- doesn't evoke oohs and aahs. And he doesn't celebrate after each successful return.

Rosburg said Leonhard is often underestimated by those who don't know him.


Leonhard, who ranks fifth on defense with 79 tackles in 12 starts and has collected a sack and an interception as a replacement for the injured Dawan Landry, said he would like to stay with the Ravens.
Special Teams Analysis: Week 17
By Ted Carlson
December 26, 2008 9:47am CST
Thankfully, the Ravens seem to have found a legit punt returner in safety Jim Leonhard. He has produced gains of 46 and 23 yards in the last two games. Unfortunately, Yamon Figurs continues to struggle on kickoff returns, and we wish Ray Rice was healthy enough to take that job back. Anyway, the Jaguars coverage units are very strong, and the Ravens aren't expected to help in this area.

All the right moves
How the Ravens went from a 5-11 team to a playoff contender in 1 year
April 28: Jim Leonhard signed
After three seasons in Buffalo, Leonhard was not invited back by the Bills. He came to Baltimore on a two-day tryout, was signed right after the draft and has been making big contributions ever since. He became the starting strong safety when Landry was injured in Week 2, and has been the team's best punt returner.

The good, the bad and the ugly of the 2008 Ravens season
By Jamison Hensley |
December 26, 2008 Best free-agent pickup: Arguments could be made for Pro Bowl special teams player Brendon Ayanbadejo and fullback Lorenzo Neal, but Jim Leonhard has stepped in for struggling punt returner Yamon Figurs to average 12.2 yards (sixth best in the NFL). He also replaced injured safety Dawan Landry to record 79 tackles (fifth best on the Ravens).

Ravens notebook: Injury ends Barnes' season
By Aaron Wilson, Times Staff Writer
RETURN GAME: Strong safety Jim Leonhard has made an impact as Dawan Landry’s replacement, ranking fifth on the defense with 79 tackles to go with one sack and one interception.
Leonhard has also made a big contribution in the return game returning 19 punts for a 12.2 average with a long return of 46 yards. He ranks sixth in the NFL in punt20return average.
"I think the best words to describe Jim Leonhard is he’s a football player," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "Put him out there at any task, he just finds a way of getting the job done. The thing that people are perhaps a little mistaken on is they look at Jim and they think he’s an overachiever.
"That guy is a good athlete. You don’t make plays as a punt returner at this level without having athletic ability. He’s got an ability to put his foot in the ground and cut off people. He reads blocks very well, and he’s been a real positive force for us."

Open For Business
2008 Baltimore Ravens MVPs
9) Jim Leonhard, S -- After quietly signing as a free agent following his tenure with the Buffalo Bills, Jim Leonhard has proven to be arguably the Ravens' best offseason acquisition. Starting in place of the injured Dawan Landry, Leonhard has filled in admirably, ranking in the top five on the team in tackles. Additionally, Leonhard's versatility has helped remarkably on special teams, often giving the Ravens prime field position when he has subbed in as a returner. Though his performance will create an interesting dilemma when Dawan Landry returns next season to reclaim his starting job, Jim Leonhard has given the Ravens' defensive secondary depth that even the elite teams in the NFL do not have this season.

Kick return game needs a jolt
By Dan Kolko on December 24, 2008 3:06 PM
Jim Leonhard has taken over for Figurs on punt returns game and has added a spark to that aspect of the special teams.

Ravens Q&A with Mike Preston
Baltimore Sun columnist answers readers' questions about the Ravens' 33-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys staff
10:36 AM EST, December 23, 2008
Adam, Parkville: Why do the Ravens continue to use Yamon Figurs to return kicks? He's clearly scared of getting hit because he stops running at the point of contact. Who do you think is the Ravens' best option right now to return kickoffs?
Mike Preston: Earlier in the season, you didn't want to risk a starter as a returner for fear of injury. But with one game left in the regular season, I'd gamble and have Jim Leonhard return punts, and hopefully Ray Rice is back to return kicks. Figurs is afraid to get hit because he was involved in some really vicious collisions early in the season when the Ravens failed to block for him. The blocking has gotten better but Figurs has lost his confidence.

Drew Forrester’s Blog
2008 Ravens tribute: “Harmony Reigns”
When Dawan Landry went down in week #2 with a season ending spinal injury, safety Jim Leonhard stepped in and did the job and then some, earning the respect of everyone with his week-in, week-out hard-nosed style of play.

THE GRAPEVINE: The buzz from One Winning Drive ~ December 23, 2008
News, notes and rumors about your Baltimore Ravens
By Tony Lombardi
Figurs’ performance has inspired many to beg for a replacement and the most popular candidate is Jim Leonhard particularly when his success as a punt returner is taken into consideration. But don’t look for the Ravens to cave in to the clamoring for Leonhard. The responsibilities of playing safety and returning punts is physically demanding enough particularly at this late juncture in the season.

Ravens-Cowboys Postmortem
Posted December 22nd, 2008 by Justin Blome
Special teams appears to be getting better and a lot of that has to do with Jim Leonhard. He has the focus and the guts to make those catches in traffic that Yamon Figurs would run from or fumble. Granted, Leonhard doesn’t have the speed that Figurs does but he has the hands, which to me is more important.
Jim Leonhard on Sports with Coleman

Punt Return

Lights Out
33-24 Loss to Ravens Dampers Stadium Finale
Rob Phillips
In the third quarter, the Ravens stretched their lead to 16-7 with two key special teams plays - a 23-yard punt return by Jim Leonhard, followed by a converted fake field goal that set up Flacco's touchdown pass to Derrick Mason. The Cowboys never got within fewer than two points after that.

Ravens' punter hurts Dallas Cowboys in multiple ways
Koch puts Dallas in bad field position, converts on fake field goal
01:46 AM CST on Sunday, December 21, 2008
By EVAN GRANT / The Dallas Morning News
In the second quarter, Paulescu booted a 35-yard line drive that Jim Leonhard returned 18 yards to start the Ravens' first scoring drive of the game. In the third quarter, Leonhard returned a 39-yard kick 23 yards to the Dallas 37. That began the touchdown drive on which Koch's run was the linchpin.

Mike Preston's report card
Baltimore Sun columnist grades the Ravens on their 33-24 win over the Dallas Cowboys
1:05 AM EST, December 21, 2008
Special teams: B+
Matt Stover converted on every field-goal attempt, and punter Sam Koch was one of the Ravens' top weapons. At this point, Jim Leonhard needs to become the primary punt returner and the Ravens have to get Yamon Figurs off the field as a return man.

Cowboys make wrong Choice
Posted by’s Matt Mosley
I’m about to walk to where the Ravens’ scouts are sitting and ask about Jim Leonhard.
I don’t watch a ton of AFC North football, but it’s pretty obvious that Leonhard’s a dynamic player. He looks great on punt returns and he’s the one who ran Choice down from behind on a long run in the first quarter.

NFL 2008 Week 16: The Battle for the AFC's King of the Hill
After a scoreless first quarter, Baltimore struck first following a 46-yard punt return by Ravens S Jim Leonhard. QB Joe Flacco led the Ravens to the Pittsburgh 10-yard line before the drive stalled, and K Matt Stover came on to hit a 28-yard field goal to give Baltimore a 3-0 advantage.

Another week, another challenge for Gaither
In season filled with tough assignments, Ravens tackle faces Ware next
By Edward Lee |
December 19, 2008
Leonhard's job?Without going so far as to confirm that Jim Leonhard had leapfrogged Yamon Figurs as the team's primary punt returner, special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said the two would split returns for the rest of the season.

"Well, we've done that to some extent for most of the season," Rosburg said. "This last game, you probably saw a little bit more of Jim Leonhard partly because of the game plan that we had. But we anticipate them sharing the duties, much like they have during the season."
Catching up with Jim Leonhard
By Dave Heller of the Journal Sentinel
Dec. 11, 2008
I had the opportunity the other day to talk with former Wisconsin safety Jim Leonhard, who is in his first season with the Baltimore Ravens. Leonhard has played in all 13 games, starting 10, and is one tackle shy of his career high. He also recently recorded his first NFL touchdown after intercepting a pass from Cincinnati's Jordan Palmer.

The one that got away
Steelers score in final minute to beat Ravens
Originally published December 15, 2008
By Stan Goldberg
News-Post Staff
"They made some plays on the last drive, and we didn't, that's why we're sitting here trying to figure out what happened," Ravens' defensive back Jim Leonhard said.

A closer look: Steelers 13, Ravens 9
By Ron Snyder
Examiner Staff Writer 12/14/08
Best coaching decision: Dividing the return duties between Yamon Figurs and Jim Leonhard.
Figurs handled the kickoffs and averaged 26 yards on three returns. Leonhard averaged 18 yards on five returns, including a long of 46 yards, which helped the Ravens set up Stover’s 28-yard field goal.
Steelers take AFC title, win over Ravens
by Alisia Chapman | December 14, 2008 at 10:50 pm
I was surprised to see punt returner Jim Leonhard pick up that bouncing punt near the Ravens’ goal line at the end of the first quarter, but the risk paid off, helping set up the Ravens’ first field goal. I’m sure Leonhard, who usually plays it safe on returns, got one of those “Nice play, don’t do it again” talks on the sidelines.


By the way, it was a nice play, and they wouldn't say "don't do it again." If he hadn't picked it up, it could have kept bouncing down the field.

Steelers rally to beat Ravens 13-9, win AFC North
A risky play by Ravens punt returner Jim Leonhard produced the game's first points. On the final play of the first quarter, Leonhard picked up a bouncing kick in a crowd at the Baltimore 11 and scooted 46 yards down the right sideline. Joe Flacco then completed a 24-yard pass to Todd Heap, and Stover followed with a field goal.

Steelers clinch division and bye with late win over Ravens
Baltimore, MD (Sports Network)
Jim Leonhard returned the boot 46 yards to the Pittsburgh 43, and Flacco found Todd Heap in traffic down the middle of the field for a 24-yard gain to set up Matt Stover's 28-yard field goal at the 12:30 mark of the second quarter.

Ravens winning special teams chess match
Posted by Bill Ordine on December 14, 2008 4:34 PM
Jim Leonhard's two punt returns are the most conspicuous plays, an 18-yarder and a 46-yarder that led to a field goal, but Sam Koch's punts have helped the Ravens keep an edge in the field position battle in the first quarter.

Just as we expected, defenses playing big
By Dan Kolko on December 14, 2008 4:49 PM
Ray Lewis just came on a slight delayed blitz and brought down Ben Roethlisberger for the game's first sack, and after a huge punt return from Jim Leonhard, the Ravens will start the second quarter with possession at the Pittsburgh 43.
Interview with Jim

...sorry I didn't get this up earlier...
Ravens' blitz befuddles Redskins ~ December 10, 2008
Baltimore signs RB Parmale, places Divens on IR
Aaron Wilson
At 5-foot-8, 185 pounds, Leonhard is an undersized dynamo who bursts into the backfield at will. The strong safety nearly shared a sack with Lewis when he penetrated off the edge in the second quarter.

"Jim is a really good athlete," Harbaugh said. "He can run, he can jump. He's athletic. He gets there quickly, but I think all of our guys do that well."
Leonhard giving Ravens a safety net all over the field
By Ron Snyder
Sports Reporter 12/9/08
Leonhard, who signed with the Ravens during the offseason after three years with the Buffalo Bills, expected to play mainly special teams in Baltimore. But he’s making the most of his expanded role. He has 53 tackles, a sack and an interception to go along with averaging 20.4 yards on kickoffs and 9.2 yards on punts this season.

Ravens' defensive backs help create chaos
Ivy and Leonhard don't get as much publicity as line, linebackers, but they keep offenses off balance
By Edward Lee
December 9, 2008
The Ravens' sack attack is built on a foundation of Terrell Suggs, Jarret Johnson and Trevor Pryce. That, however, shouldn't overshadow the defense's use of cornerback Corey Ivy and strong safety Jim Leonhard.

Sack with Ray Lewis

NFL GameDay: Redskins vs. Ravens highlights
There's a good clip of Jim in here.

WAS vs. BAL: 1st Qtr highlights
The sack is at the end of this clip.

WAS vs. BAL: 2nd Qtr highlights
Tackle, push out of bounds...
Jim Leonhard Looks pretty good...
Maybe we should have kept him. It's not like any of our safeties are setting the world on fire right now.

Mike Preston's report card
Baltimore Sun columnist grades the Ravens on their 24-10 win over the Redskins
December 8, 2008
Defensive backs: A
Safety Ed Reed returned one fumble for a touchdown and picked off two passes. The Redskins tried to pick on cornerback Fabian Washington, but he helped shut down the Redskins' speedy receivers. Safety Jim Leonhard is always around the ball.

Postgame Report Card: Ravens 24, Redskins 10
Figurs returned a punt and a kick, but Jim Leonhard was also put in as both a punt returner and a kick returner, and came up with one very nice 25-yard kick return.

L. McClain stars as a sub
Coming off bench as only healthy tailback, he carries 10 times on pivotal drive
By Edward Lee
December 8, 2008
Leonhard each took a turn fielding punt returns during the first half. Leonhard called for a fair catch on one punt, returned one for 4yards, and returned another for a modest gain in the second quarter, but it was negated by an illegal block in the back by Wilcox.
Cornerback Samari Rolle, wide receiver Mark Clayton and Leonhard represented the Ravens during the coin toss.

Ravens Report
December 8, 2008
PRESSURE PACKAGE: The Ravens came after Campbell early, with lasting effect. Defensive end-linebacker Terrell Suggs caused Campbell's fluttering pass on Reed's interception, and safety Jim Leonhard blitzed twice in the first quarter from the right side. On his second blitz, he arrived a split second after linebacker Ray Lewis tackled Campbell for a 13-yard sack.

Breaking down the punt return situation
By Dan Kolko on December 7, 2008 9:33 PM
Leonhard has proven he is more than capable returning punts, and he had a nice seven-yard return earlier, though it was brought back by a block in the back penalty.
Go with one guy. I think that one guy should be Jimmy.

Beating the Redskins in Baltimore…is anything better?
Posted 5 hours, 53 minutes ago
by Nestor Aparicio
You gotta love the Ravens’ two midgets in the secondary, Corey Ivy and Jim Leonhard are truly unsung heroes on this 2008 team. They both made some big plays and vicious tackles against the Redskins, but if you ever meet them you’ll be shocked at how small they are. They’re truly “normal” sized guys and in my 13 years of going through the Ravens locker room there haven’t many like them. Maybe Jermaine Lewis and B.J. Sams would be in the club but not many more. Just amazing the heart these guys show being on the field with the giants. It’s inspirational, really, because you know they’ve been told all of their lives that they were too small to play in the NFL.
Could Figurs lose his return duties?
By Dan Kolko on December 3, 2008 4:30 PM
Jim Leonhard, Ray Rice and even Ed Reed have gotten a chance to return kicks at various points this season, and it seems all have had solid success back deep. Leonhard especially does a great job of running north-south, picking up as many yards as possible instead of weaving around looking to spring a big return every time.

Funny article

He made the cut in an Esquire article...
The Seven Commandments of Watching Football in a Sports Bar
Buzz up!
A guide to watching football in public. Plus: how to win your fantasy playoffs, and why this will be the worst Super Bowl party season in eight years.
By Peter Schrager
When Ravens defender Jim Leonhard returned an interception for a meaningless touchdown in the Baltimore-Cincinnati game, the whole bar knew. After all, this guy had the Ravens defense starting in his "keeper league."
NFL Week 13: Letters to the League
Daniel Cox
To: Jordan Palmer and Jim Leonhard

Re: Allow me to introduce myself

Usually most highlights are comprised of players fans have heard of. You guys were involved in what is easily the "who was that" play of the year when Jim intercepted that pass and returned it for a touchdown.

You guys were probably saying it too.

"Who was that guy that threw that pass that I just intercepted?"

"Who the heck just intercepted my pass?"

This play took place and no one knew who on earth you guys were.

Vote for Jim for the Defensive Play of the Week!

Help Jim out and vote for him, click below!

Pick Six

Click the picture below to check out the clip at
Watch the game highlights:

Plug-in veterans help power Ravens defense
By Ken Murray
November 22, 2008
There are no slackers on the Ravens' defense, thanks in part to veteran leadership. When safety Jim Leonhard first set foot in the locker room in April, he quickly gained an appreciation for that fact.

"You feel that right away," he said yesterday. "You know the talent and the intelligence of the players on this defense, and you can't be the guy to let them down. They don't care if you're a rookie, a free agent or a guy they just brought in. They expect you to learn the defense and understand it as well as they do."

Leonhard learned on the run as the only newcomer in a pre-draft minicamp that also served as his two-day tryout. Signed the day after the draft, Leonhard saw his job description go from special teams to starting strong safety in Week 2 when Dawan Landry suffered a season-ending neck injury.

After three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, Leonhard, a free agent in the offseason, was one of three key veteran additions the Ravens made to the secondary. Cornerbacks Fabian Washington (draft-day trade) and Frank Walker (free agent) have also played significant roles at a position depleted by injuries last season.
Then there was Leonhard, the 5-foot-8, 186-pound safety who has taken on tight ends this year as well as playing on special teams. Defensive backs coach Mark Carrier made that evaluation, and when Leonhard showed well in his tryout, the Ravens quickly offered him a contract.

"Someone that athletic and that smart we felt was a good fit," Kokinis said. "He learned that defense fast. It's a lot about chemistry, a little about talent and a lot about heart, and he has that."
From primary weakness to secondary strength
By Gary Lambrecht
Examiner Staff Writer 11/29/08
And then there’s four-year veteran Jim Leonhard, another offseason addition, who has stepped in to start eight games and has excelled in defensive coordinator Rex Ryan’s scheme....
You can’t overstate the importance of good cover guys in Ryan’s plan. The Ravens know that, on pretty much any Sunday, no one is running over that superb front seven. If the back end is protected, we’re talking about a defense that can approach airtight.
“When your corners lock up on the outside one-on-one the way they did [against Philadelphia], there’s so many things we can do up front,” Leonhard said. “We pretty much go into games thinking if they can’t throw the ball over our heads, we’re going to win. We take a lot of pride in that.”

Ravens' secondary is first-rate
David Steele November 30, 2008
"Nobody wants to be the guy who lets the other guys down," Leonhard said. "We're all doing a good job just taking care of our own jobs. Nobody feels like they have to pick up the slack for anybody else."

Ravens bulldoze Bengals
By Aaron Wilson, Times Staff Writer Carroll County Times
The situation only got worse for Cincinnati when Palmer's younger brother, Jordan Palmer, entered the game in the final minutes. His first offering was thrown directly to strong safety Jim Leonhard, who gladly accepted the gift and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown to put an exclamation point on the victory.
"I couldn't believe he threw it," said Leonhard after scoring his first touchdown since high school. "I was shocked he threw it. It seemed like it took forever to get on it. It was like slow motion."

2-Minute Drill: Something has gone missing in the AFC
1 Pass it took for Cincinnati Bengals fans to turn on backup quarterback Jordan Palmer. Carson Palmer’s little brother was cheered when he replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter. Boos followed when his first pass was intercepted by Jim Leonhard and returned for a touchdown. You know it’s bad when the defender isn’t even taking credit for the play. "I couldn’t believe he threw it," Leonhard said after the game. "I was shocked he threw it."

Going Deep: Adventure and intrigue from around the NFL
Monday, December 1st 2008, 1:50 AM
Love this one: On our first 18 offensive plays yesterday, we managed all of 20 yards! Oh, happy day. We were a scintillating 2-of-15 on third downs, saw Fitz the Harvard Guy get sacked four more times and watched Jordan Palmer’s first pass (yeah, he’s Carson’s little bro and our third-string QB) was picked off and returned 35 yards for the first touchdown of Jim Leonhard’s career (glad we could help, Jim).

Ravens Report
By Jamison Hensley |
December 1, 2008
NOSE FOR THE END ZONE: Jim Leonhard's 35-yard interception return for a touchdown was the fifth touchdown scored by the Ravens' defense this season. Since 2003, the Ravens' defense has scored 26 touchdowns, going 22-3 in those games.

Baltimore Ravens Have Used Trickery, Defense to Succeed
Isaac Barrow
Right now, the Baltimore Ravens are feeling good.
Today, they absolutely wrecked the Bengals, 34-3. Joe Flacco passed for 280 yards and two touchdowns, Mark Clayton caught five passes for 164 yards, and Jim Leonhard got a pick-six.

Ravens Knockout Bengals: Quick Thoughts
Written by Dan November 30th, 2008
Defensively, the Ravens effort was strong all game long. The unit appeared to lose focus in the winding moments of the first half, but still only allowed a field goal. There was no singular stand-out, but a few players deserve mention. Fabian Washington had Chad Johnson locked down most of the game. Bart Scott scored big in protecting the run. Jarrett Johnson and Haloti Ngata both had great games pressuring the entire Bengals line. And of course Jim Leonhard deserves a sentence all to himself for doing his best Ed Reed impersonation - it was spot on.

Bengals Bungle In The Jungle, Lose 34-3
By Kevin Goheen Editor
Posted Nov 30, 2008
The Bengals had 14 possessions in the game. They turned the ball over on downs on their final drive, which ended with 1:07 left on the clock, while Baltimore safety Jim Leonhard intercepted a Palmer pass intended for Reggie Kelly and returned it 35 yards for the game’s final touchdown with 2:28 to play.