Renton – Thanksgiving Day 2008 still weighs heavily on Walter Jones’ mind.
That fateful Thursday was the first time the Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle, widely considered the best in the game, looked mortal as he gave up two sacks to DeMarcus Ware in his team’s 34-9 loss to the Cowboys. Jones later was placed on the season-ending injured reserve list, leading to microfracture surgery on his left knee in early December.
So perhaps it’s fitting, as the Seahawks prepare to face the Cowboys again almost a year later, that coach Jim Mora announced Seattle has placed Jones on the season-ending injured reserve for a second consecutive year because of knee problems.
Despite two surgeries over an eight-month period and three attempts to get back on the field this season, the pain in Jones’ knee never went away, and he didn’t want to be put in the same vulnerable situation he found himself in a year ago in Dallas.
“I never did feel comfortable enough to put myself back on the football field,” Jones said while answering questions Wednesday afternoon. “After last year’s game, that was a tough situation for me. So I never did want to go out there feeling uncomfortable about something. So I said I’m not going to step on the football field until I feel comfortable about this knee.”
Jones didn’t exactly give a retirement speech after being asked about the prospects of playing against next season.
“My next step is to continue to keep working and try to get back,” he said. “I still want to play this game. I still have the love. I like the competition. I still want to go out and compete with the guys, so that’s my No. 1 goal right now, is to continue to keep doing what I’ve got to do to get back on the field for next year.”
The nine-time Pro Bowl player helped the Seahawks reach their only Super Bowl four years ago. And before ending his season on the injured reserve last year, Jones had not missed a game since his rookie season, a 10-year period that included 156 consecutive starts.
Part of the issue with Jones is he has a kidney condition that does not allow him to take anti-inflammatory medication, which could help in better dealing with the pain in his knee.
“I think it was a decision they made,” Jones said about being placed on IR. “And I’m cool with that because it’s tough because I’m been working hard trying to get back on the football field, and everybody knows the limitations I have with the stuff I can take to get back.
“So I just had to take that, and to still continue to do the things I have to do to get back on the football field.”
Jones said he always had to deal with pain in his knee. He said most times during his rehabilitation effort he did not tell anyone he had pain in his knee because his No. 1 focus was trying to get back on the field. Jones said he probably should have said something sooner instead of hoping the pain would go away.
“That’s the most part of it,” Jones said. “Just feeling comfortable enough to go back out there and play football. I was always dealing with the situation where I could never get out there and consistently practice, day-in and day-out, where I felt good about the knee.
“The pain never did subside,” Jones went on. “So I decided to say something and say that, ‘Hey, something still is not right.’ ”
The Seahawks find themselves in a position where the team’s projected starting left side of the offensive line – Jones at tackle and Mike Wahle at guard – have not played a snap in 2009. Wahle retired just before training camp after failing a physical.
Seattle likely will start its fourth left tackle in Damion McIntosh against the Cowboys because Jones’ successor, Sean Locklear, is still recovering from a high ankle sprain suffered against San Francisco on Sept. 20.
The Seahawks’ woes aren’t limited to offensive tackle. Seattle has started three left guards and two centers this season.
Sunday will mark the Seahawks’ fifth different starting offensive line in seven games.
Asked if he believed the Seahawks properly prepared to handle injuries along the offensive line heading into the season, Mora said yes.
“We did plan for it,” he said. “But we didn’t plan for the enormity of the problems that we’ve faced up front with regards to injuries.
“I don’t know that you can. We would have had to have 20 offensive linemen on our roster at training camp.”
Seattle players were disappointed and sad for their fellow teammate, but also thankful to have some closure on the issue, knowing that Jones would not return this season and they would have to make do with the likes of McIntosh and Locklear at left tackle.
“Walt is the heart and soul if this offensive line,” guard Rob Sims said. “We’re going to miss him, his leadership and stuff like that. But hopefully he can just go get better, and hopefully we can see him next year. He’s still a big part of this team. He’s still a big part of us, and he’ll be around. We’re going to try and play well for him.”
Wide receiver Nate Burleson understands there’s life after football.
“If I didn’t know Walter, I would probably be disappointed because he’s not on the field,” Burleson said. “But I know Walter. He’s a good dude. And I’d rather see him be able to walk around then to risk something and be another NFL player who 10 years from now can’t play with his child.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437