Renton – Sean Locklear will receive an extended audition at left tackle after Seattle Seahawks head coach Jim Mora announced Wednesday that Walter Jones needed arthroscopic surgery on his surgically repaired left knee.
Jones’ second surgery in eight months was completed Thursday morning by Dr. Ed Khalfayan and Dr. Michael McAdam at Seattle Surgery Center. A team spokesperson said the surgery went as anticipated, with doctors removing some loose bodies and scar tissue from part of the original microfracture surgery Jones had on his left knee in December.
Jones is said to be resting comfortably, and the team said that in about two weeks, after he can move around better and be reevaluated, it will establish a timeline for when Jones can return to the field.
However, with Jones likely missing the first few weeks of the regular season, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp sees the injury as a chance for others to step up and meet the challenge.
“We always talk to the players about opportunities,” he said. “And you’ve got to take advantage of your opportunities and don’t worry about the ones you don’t get.
“So, in reality, for a lot of these guys, it’s a great opportunity for Sean Locklear to get reps at left tackle, for Manny (Wrotto) and Max (Unger) to work the right-guard spot, for (Steve) Vallos to get in there in the mix. This is an opportunity for them because that’s when they need to get better, by taking advantage of these reps.”
Knapp emphasized it’s still early, with three weeks left before the team’s first regular-season game, so the team has time for the offensive line to jell and work itself out.
But with Jones expected to be sidelined for an extended period, the Seahawks will rely on Locklear to hold down the left-tackle spot. Seattle signed the North Carolina State product to a five-year, $32 million deal in February 2008 with the idea that Locklear would be the eventual replacement for Jones once he retired.
“It’s the hardest position on the line,” Locklear said. “That’s why left tackles get paid the big bucks. So there’s some pressure there, but you’ve got to be ready to come out and perform.”
Locklear started at left tackle for two games in 2008 when Jones was placed on the injured reserve list in December, and he has filled in at left tackle at times since his rookie season in 2004 on the rare occasions Jones has been unable to play.
Now he’s again being asked to fill the big shoes of his mentor.
Locklear playing left tackle is part of the versatility preached by offensive line coach Mike Solari. Seattle’s offensive linemen are required to know all of the line positions. With the Seahawks usually carrying only seven active lineman on the roster on game day, players need to know multiple positions.
“We’re all interchangeable,” Locklear said. “I think there’s a bunch of guys that we can line up and play any position across the board. We sit in meetings, and we all know what one another is doing. And we take pride in that.”
Even though Jones might not be ready for the opening of the regular season, fellow offensive lineman Rob Sims expects Jones to eventually return to the field.
“Walt is hanging in there for us,” Sims said. “He wants to be a part of this team. He wants to be a part of this line. He’s a fighter.
“I expect him back. He’s got the heart of a lion. He’s always hung in there with us. He’s always been there. When he gets back, we’ll roll.”
The Seahawks will play the starters for about a half on Saturday. The starting offensive line will be different than originally announced by Mora on Wednesday, with Locklear at left tackle, Sims at left guard, Chris Spencer at center, Wrotto at right guard instead of Unger and Ray Willis at left tackle. … Wide receiver Nate Burleson (hamstring) likely will sit out Saturday’s game, allowing the younger receivers competing for a spot on the team to get more playing time. … The Seahawks completed the last day of two-a-day training camp on Thursday – players have returned to their homes and begin a regular practice schedule Monday. The team will have a short walkthrough today in preparation for Saturday’s game.