Jones comes back


KIRKLAND, Wash. – Walter Jones returned to Seahawks practice Tuesday for the first time in five days with a still-sore shoulder, but Seattle coach Mike Holmgren insisted he wasn’t worried about the Pro Bowl left tackle’s health.

“We are not going to turn this into one of these ‘Diary: Day Six. Day Seven. Day Eight,’ are we? He’s going to be fine. He’s fine,” Holmgren said after Jones spent the morning in the training room before walking out to watch the last 15 minutes of practice.

“He could have practiced today. But honestly, I just want him ready to play in the first ballgame.”

But by late afternoon, the 33-year-old Jones was back participating in a no-pads practice.

“Glad to be back. It just felt better,” Jones said after his unexpected return to the field.

He said trainers were to re-evaluate him later in the day. That would determine whether he would participate in his first full-pads practice in almost a week this morning.

Jones, whose seven Pro Bowls are tied with Steve Largent for second in Seattle history behind Cortez Kennedy’s eight, then walked into the training room and dropped off a bulbous body wrap of tape and padding to prepare for yet more treatment on his right shoulder. He first had surgery on it about seven years ago and then again after last season.

“I’ve been dealing with this shoulder for a while,” he said.

Jones said he hurt it again “just banging” with fellow linemen in practice last week. He added that he would be able to play this weekend if it were a regular-season game.

But since Sunday is the exhibition opener at San Diego, he likely will watch – although Holmgren wouldn’t say so yet.

“I mean, he could play. He’s in good shape. He’s honest about how he feels. I really just want him ready to play in the first ballgame,” Holmgren said.

Jones is one of only two starting linemen left from Seattle’s Super Bowl season of 2005. The other is Sean Locklear. The usual right tackle has been taking Jones’ place on the left side this week.

Tom Ashworth, a former Super Bowl starter for New England, has been the first-team right tackle but will go back to reserve duty when Jones returns fully.

“He’s going to be one of our guys we are going to need to play all season and play well,” Holmgren said. “So I’m probably being a little bit nice to him.”

Although he would appear to have little to gain from playing in any of the four preseason games, Jones wants to.

“There’s always a reason to play,” he said. “You want to perform.”

Jones isn’t the only star Holmgren will be preserving this month.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Saturday that doctors want him to be greatly limited during preseason games, seven months after surgery on his non-throwing shoulder – although Hasselbeck added “hopefully we can push the envelope on that a little bit.”

Holmgren also said Shaun Alexander will play sparingly, as usual, before Seattle opens the regular season against Tampa Bay on Sept. 9.

This month, the 2005 NFL Most Valuable Player turns 30 – the age at which running backs’ statistics usually begin a steady decline.

“Is he going to be 30? I had no idea how old Shaun was,” Holmgren said. “Regardless, we would practice him the same way. He’s not going to play much in the preseason and he’s going to get ready to go – like all of our core guys, the guys we are counting on and that have a little experience.”


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