With the team’s announcement that Walter Jones was placed on the injured reserve with a knee ailment, ending his season, local writers paid homage to the Seattle Seahawks offensive tackle with the possibility of this being his last season.
When he arrived in 1997, he was the best lineman on the field with his first step. He ran the 40 in the 4.6-second range at well over 300 pounds. He had a dancer’s feet and a wire-walker’s balance. I’ve been in attendance at almost every down he’s played for the Seahawks, and I don’t believe I’ve ever seen him off-balance.
At times early in his career, on those “reach” plays toward the sideline, he might block the entire side of an opposing defense, sealing off the end first, scraping off him to flatten a linebacker, and then hustling up the field to scare the wits out of a safety who dared try to support the run.
Most often, though, it was somewhat less spectacular – more a matter of rendering an opponent invisible. Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes talked about coaching against Jones, and how demoralizing his play was. Rhodes claimed it was as if Jones would bring his opponent to the park in a little sandwich bag, take him out of the bag, humiliate him for 60 minutes, and then put him back in his little bag before showering up.
Jones went 10 consecutive seasons without missing a game because of injury. He treated even the best defensive ends as if they were little boys swinging their arms errantly at him. He earned nine Pro Bowl berths, six All-Pro selections, became the best player at his position and perhaps the entire NFL, and if this is starting to read like his football obit, well, it's hard not to consider the end right now because Wednesday exposed a sad reality.
You can't rely on Mr. Reliable anymore.
You can hope Big Walt will return; you can't expect. That goes for both the public and the Seahawks.
He's probably done forever, but don't tell Big Walt that. He plans to return next year. And you wonder why.
Jones will be 36 in January. Players his age rarely come back from microfracture knee surgery. Even if he does, Jones won't be the player he once was -- he will have been out for nearly two years since his last game on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas last year. That's fine, you argue, a Walter Jones at 60 percent is no doubt better than his fill-in, Damion McIntosh, at 100 percent.
Part of me hopes he makes it all the way back and is a productive contributor next season. But a bigger part of me thinks he should hang it up. In his comments to the media, Jones sounded like an aging boxer who doesn't know when it's time to retire. You argue again that Jones should be able to go out on his own terms. But in the NFL, how often does that happen? And what's wrong with these terms -- ending a brilliant career as one of the best tackles in pro football history?
Jones is headed to the Hall of Fame. He will be in the Ring of Honor. At some point he'll raise the 12th man flag. He'll be saluted as one of the finest to ever wear a Seahawks uniform.
Here’s my story on Jones’ heading to the IR.
And here’s a notebook on LB Lofa Tatupu and the possibility of his season ending this week.
I talked with KJR’s Ian Furness on Wednesday about the Jones, and what the team will do moving forward in this audio link.
Rob Sims talked with Ian about Jones moving on and the upcoming matchup against Dallas in this audio link.
Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley talks with KJR’s Mitch Levy about this week’s game in this audio link.
Wide receivers Nate Burleson and Deion Branch, along with defensive tackle Brandon Mebane, highjack the airwaves at KJR in this audio link.
Gerry Fraley of the Dallas Morning News writes about the coaching lineage of Wade Phillips and Jim Mora, whose fathers both coached in the NFL.
David Moore of the Dallas Morning News quotes Dallas receiver Roy Williams saying that Seattle is inconsistent just like his team. Williams: “You don’t know what team is going to show up. They’ve blown some teams out then they’ve gotten beat. We’re pretty much like them. We don’t know what team is going to show up with us. But we’ve got a little streak going. We’ve just got to continue to ride this wave.”
Jeff Chaplan of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says second-year cornerback Michael Jenkins is becoming the player the organization envisioned.