Jim Leonhard is excited about the opportunity to be with the Cleveland Browns.


BEREA, Ohio -- In an effort to add depth and experience to the secondary, the Cleveland Browns signed free-agent safety Jim Leonhard on Wednesday, and it did not take long for the 10-year NFL veteran to blend in with his teammates and coaches.

Leonhard was on the field during Thursday's fully padded practice, and worked on both defense and special teams.

"I've got a lot of faith in coach (Mike) Pettine and his staff, what he does on defense and I'm excited to see him as a head coach," Leonhard said. "I think he's got the right mentality for it. The little bit that I've seen, he's doing the right things.

"I'm excited to have an opportunity whenever it is, now, this point in camp, obviously, the opportunity came up, so (I'm) just excited to be here. We've been in contact a little bit throughout the offseason and a couple teams kind of got involved and sped up the process a little bit and got me in here, which is great."

Leonhard, a 5-foot-8, 188-pound defensive back, spent the 2013 season working with Pettine as a member of the Buffalo Bills, and set a career high with four interceptions, which he returned for 72 yards. He also had 41 total tackles in 16 games for the Bills last fall.

"There's a lot to like," Pettine said of Leonhard. "He's smart. He's tough. He knows the defense. It took (secondary coach) Jeff Hafley about 10 minutes to install all the D, get him caught up to speed. (There's) some subtle changes in terminology and some of the technique stuff, but he's a guy that's productive.

"He's a perfect example. You look at him and think he should be doing your taxes and not playing safety for you, but he's an exceptional athlete, and he's found a way to survive for a long time in this league. The thing is, he makes the other players around him better, and he'll be great in the meeting room. That will carry onto the field as well. He also had his career high in interceptions last year, so he can still play at a high level."

Pettine sees Leonhard as a "core special teamer," as well as "some type of nickel defender" when an opponent comes out in a two-tight end, two-wide receiver formation. Part of that role as a core special teamer could include returning punts, which Leonhard has experience doing at the NFL level.

In 126 games, Leonhard has returned 104 punts for 972 yards.

"Jimmy will work in at some point," Pettine said. "He was very good at it in Wisconsin, and has been solid. He jokes, calls himself a punt catcher, not a punt returner, but he's a guy that was very high in the NCAA, and he's hit some punt returns, so he's a very experienced guy back there.

"(Jets coach) Rex (Ryan) and I used joke that he could catch a punt in a hurricane. It's nice to have that guy in a pooch punt situation where, likely, there's not going to be a return anyway, that you feel good about putting him back there."

Although Leonhard looks at this opportunity with the Browns as one in which he will get to play for a coach he respects, it will also be his last go-around in the NFL before he looks to go home to Madison, Wisconsin, and possibly gets into coaching.

"I'm all about winning," Leonhard said. "I don't have a ring yet. That's the only reason I'm playing football right now is to try to win a Super Bowl, and if a team calls and I feel they have a good shot, then that might be something that sways me, but I feel pretty confident this will be my last year.

"It's something I decided a couple of years ago. I talked it over with my family. This is it and I'm excited. You know what I'm going to put into this year if it's the last one. I'm really excited to have this opportunity here.

"It's time. This will be 10 seasons. It's been a lot longer than I ever expected to play this game. Mentally, it's got to the point where I feel I've got one really good mentally being into a season left and I'll be ready to move on. There are other things I want to do. I'm ready to go all in."

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