RENTON – Walter Jones’ return to the field was short-lived, and the veteran offensive tackle’s ability to stay healthy this season has become a growing concern for the Seattle Seahawks.
After sitting out nearly two weeks with back spasms, Jones, who had microfracture surgery on his left knee in December, returned to practice Thursday and appeared healthy.
But with the team suiting up in full pads Monday, Jones went through individual and team drills before asking out of a team drill midway through practice, kneeling next to a trainer while wincing in pain.
Jones, 35, later walked off the field and headed inside to the training facility.
Seahawks head coach Jim Moa said he did not know the extent of Jones’ injury, and is not overly concerned with Jones being out on the field getting reps with the rest of the first team this week.
“It’s coming, but not yet,” Mora said about the need to see the starting offensive line work together. “Walt wasn’t scheduled to go the whole practice (today) anyhow. So, that wasn’t a major deal. But yeah, eventually, we need to see that. I don’t think that we’re at the critical stages yet.”
Asked when that time will come when all five starting linemen need to be working together, Mora said by the Wednesday before the team’s first regular-season game on Sept. 13 against the St. Louis Rams.
“In a perfect scenario, you could have them every day of training camp, but that’s just not the way it is,” he said. “So, as long as we set it — I mean it — by that Wednesday, I think we’ll be okay. It won’t be perfect, but it’ll be what it is, and we’ll make the best of it.”
Although he would like to see Jones out on the field working with the rest of the first unit, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp is taking his cue from Mora and the rest of the coaching staff that has been with the team for awhile.
“I would like to (see Jones out on the field) only because I haven’t been around him,” Knapp said. “But I’ve been told by many people in the building, ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be there.’”
While Jones was out on the field, he worked at left tackle with the rest of the line made up of Rob Sims at left guard, Max Unger at center, Sean Locklear at right guard and Ray Willis at right tackle.
Mora said Unger was subbing for starting center Chris Spencer while he got a break from team drills. However, Mora and Knapp had high praise for the way Unger played against San Diego on Saturday. The rookie out of Oregon started at right guard the first half and played center the second half, playing every snap of offense for the Seahawks against the Chargers.
“It’s rare to see a guy that young be as effective as he was in his first preseason game when you ask him to play two positions like we were,” Mora said. “That’s a credit to (offensive line coach) Mike Solari, and to Max — Mike getting him ready and Max getting himself ready.”
With Jones struggling to return to the field, the Seahawks may need the services of Unger and other versatile linemen like Steve Vallos sooner rather than later.
Defensive end Reed shines
He probably doesn’t pass the eye test as the most intimidating player getting off the team bus, but rookie Nick Reed continues to make plays every time he’s on the field.
Reed finished with an interception and a sack in his first action as a pro. Even though at 6-1, 247 pounds, Reed is small for a defensive end, he makes up for it by playing with great anticipation and awareness on the field.
Reed, who left Oregon as the school’s all-time sack leader, said he’s not surprised by his ability to compete at this level.
In all likelihood Reed is probably headed for the practice squad. However, he’s turning heads with his play, and has put himself in the conversation of earning a spot on the active roster.
Rookie quarterback stands out
Mora and Knapp also came away impressed with the play of rookie quarterback Mike Teel. The Rutgers product completed 7-of-15 passes for 75 yards, including the game-winning touchdown, an 18-yard strike on a skinny post to Mike Hass.
“Mike Teel showed some of the traits we saw on film when we watched Rutgers play,” Mora said. “I thought he had really good command of the offense. He was pretty accurate in his throws. He made good decisions. He seemed to move the team efficiently. He looked better in the game than he’s looked out in practice—you guys have been out here.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
Seahawks training camp
More return time for Butler
Even though rookie Deon Butler struggled returning punts and kicks for the first time in his professional career, Seattle head coach Jim Mora said Butler will get more time on both special-teams units in the team’s next exhibition game against Denver.
“He made a couple decisions that weren’t what you wanted,” Mora said. “But, yeah, we’re going to put him back there. He wasn’t clean, but he needs to learn. He needs to learn how to do that.”
Tapp finds way on the field
In an effort to get some of their talented defensive linemen on the field, the Seattle Seahawks have been toying with employing a 3-3 formation during passing downs and using versatile players like Darryl Tapp as linebackers who can either blitz or drop back in coverage.
Tapp said the new positions suits his skills and offers another way for him to get on the field. Tapp is a back-up defensive end for Patrick Kerney.
“It’s just showing my versatility,” Tapp said. “It’s something coach Mora and coach Bradley (defensive coordinator) have been playing with. And I’ve taken a liking to it.”
Sitting out Monday were T.J. Duckett, Julius Jones, Grey Ruegamer (elbow), Cory Withrow (leg), Kevin Brown, Lawrence Jackson, Olindo Mare (knee) and Marcus Trufant (back).
Eric D. Williams, The News Tribune