Laveranues Coles released for safety

Updated: December 8, 2010, 10:21 AM ET
By Ian Begley and Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- With safety James Ihedigbo's status for Sunday's home game against the Dolphins uncertain and Jim Leonhard out for the season with a broken leg, the New York Jets are looking to bring in a safety to fill the void in the secondary.

To create room for the new safety, the Jets have released wideout Laveranues Coles, whom they signed late last week after Leonhard was lost for the year with a broken right shin.

It looks like they might have found their replacement. The Jets will sign safety Emanuel Cook on Wednesday, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini. He was on the Jets' training-camp roster and was waived Sept. 3. Most recently, he played for the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League.

"I would have liked to have had L.C. here," Rex Ryan said Tuesday morning. "But now we're going to have to let him go because of the fact our safety situation is the way it is."

Ryan said Ihedigbo will undergo an MRI exam Tuesday. The coach believes he suffered an MCL and ankle injury when a Patriots player appeared to land on his leg in the third quarter of the Jets' 45-3 loss to the Patriots on Monday night.

Keith Fitzhugh was one candidate among a small group of available safeties the Jets were considering but he turned them down to remain a conductor with Norfolk Southern Railroad and stay on track financially while helping support his parents in Atlanta.

"I've got something now where I know every two weeks I'm getting a paycheck," Fitzhugh told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday night. "That's what helps out the most right now. I don't knock the Jets at all. I highly appreciate them."

The Jets signed Fitzhugh in late August and released him on Sept. 4, so the second-year player out of Mississippi State is familiar with their system. He spent the majority of last season on the Jets' practice squad before signing with the Ravens.

To fill the void, Ryan said that the Jets were looking to add a safety with knowledge of their system.

"It's tough now because if you have to play them, they better be familiar with what you're doing," the coach said.

It was a tough decision to pass on the NFL.

"You don't hear this too often and some people might think it's not a good idea," Fitzhugh said. "Some people might think it is. I don't know. I just have to look out for what's best for me and my family."

Fitzhugh's agent, Daniel Rose, was impressed by the decision.

"To sacrifice what he did for his family is the most unselfish thing I've heard by a player in sports," said Rose.

Fitzhugh's father, Keith Sr., is disabled and unable to work, while his mother, Meltonia, has been struggling to make ends meet.

"I know the Jets have a great opportunity of making the Super Bowl, and that's one dream that every child has is to play sports and make it to the Super Bowl or get to the World Series," Fitzhugh said. "But, there's a time when you have to think, 'Hey, you've only got one Mom and Dad.' They won't be here forever, and while they're here, you've got to cherish that time."

Fitzhugh went undrafted after an outstanding career at Mississippi State and signed last year with the Jets as a free agent. He was later cut and signed to the practice squad before Baltimore signed him last December. He re-signed with the Jets in the offseason.

"I was released three times. That's a lot," he said. "I just don't want to give up what I have now and say that I'm there for a couple of weeks and then I'm released again. Then, what am I going to do? It's really tough. It's the nature of the business."

The decision to sign Coles was viewed as one that would give the Jets an emotional lift after they lost Leonhard for the season last Friday.

Coles, 32, played for the Jets from 2000 to 2002 and from 2005 to 2008. He also tried for a third stint in training camp, but the team surprisingly cut him late in camp. Coles was inactive Monday night. He has 674 catches in his career for 8,609 yards and 49 touchdowns.

Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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