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Seahawks release returner Leon Washington

By Brady Henderson

RENTON – The smile disappeared from John Schneider’s face as the subject went from Percy Harvin to one of the players he’s replacing.

“We have a very special place in our hearts for him,” the Seahawks’ general manager said of kick returner and fan favorite Leon Washington, who was released by the team Tuesday after three seasons in Seattle.

“He did a phenomenal job here, fans love him, he’s such a pro,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said of kick returner Leon Washington, who was released by the team Tuesday. (AP)

Shortly after news broke Monday that the Seahawks were set to acquire the versatile Harvin, reported that they had been gauging the trade market for Washington. When nothing materialized, the Seahawks gave him his walking papers and some highly complimentary remarks.

“He did a phenomenal job here, fans love him, he’s such a pro,” Schneider said. “He really handled himself with extreme class with Pete [Carroll] and I when we talked to him, and understood what we were doing.”

Washington, 30, was coming off a Pro Bowl season in which he averaged a career-high 29 yards per kickoff return. He was due to make $1.5 million in base salary and another $1 million in a roster bonus, money the Seahawks apparently didn’t want to pay after signing Harvin to a deal reportedly worth $67 million over six years.

Carroll said Harvin will return kickoffs for the Seahawks, though it wasn’t clear whether or not that will be on a full-time basis.

Washington, meanwhile, will be looking for a new team.

“Seattle It’s Been Awesome A Ride, Got Nothing Bad 2 Say About The Gr8 NW #12thMan StandUp!!! Like always… #LetsGetIt,” Washington tweeted.

If anyone knows how quickly fortunes can change in the NFL, it’s Washington.

He was a Pro Bowl and All-Pro returner with the Jets in 2008 and the following year sustained a gruesome leg injury that threatened to end his career. A draft-day trade in 2010 sent Washington to the Seahawks, and in his first season in Seattle he returned three kickoffs for touchdowns – including two during a memorable win over San Diego at CenturyLink Field.

That comeback season endeared Washington to Seahawks fans and earned him a four-year contract extension.

Washington tied the NFL record for most career kickoffs returned for touchdowns during a November loss to Miami. And in another reminder of how cruel the NFL can be, even another Pro Bowl season wasn’t enough for Washington to keep his job.

“We’ll miss him,” Schneider said. “But he understands what we’re doing.”