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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jones ends holdout, joins Hawks

Tim Korte Associated Press

KIRKLAND, Wash. – With the regular season under way this week, standout tackle Walter Jones signed a one-year deal and joined the Seattle Seahawks for practice Monday.

Jones, designated the team’s franchise player, missed training camp while he waited for a long-term contract offer. He has missed most of the previous three training camps, as well.

“I’m here now,” Jones said. “The season has started, and that stuff is behind me now. Whatever happened was going to happen, and right now I’m here to help this team win.”

He was asked if he’ll be ready for Sunday’s opener at New Orleans.

“I don’t think I have a choice,” he said. “The coaches will look at me good and assess me.”

Jones is coming off his fourth Pro Bowl season and will earn $7.1 million this year, the average pay for the NFL’s highest-paid offensive linemen. He was Seattle’s first-round draft pick in 1997.

“We knew he’d show up today or tomorrow,” guard Chris Gray said. “It’s just good to have him back. Good guy.”

Jones said his teammates welcomed him back. Gray insisted none of the linemen was resentful Jones skipped training camp again.

“It’s a business. That’s what it is. This will probably extend his career,” Gray joked.

Coach Mike Holmgren, on the other hand, wasn’t thrilled his top lineman arrived so late again, saying nobody – players or agents – should assume Jones will be playing in Hawaii again next February.

“He’s an exceptional player, no question about that,” Holmgren said. “He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen. But does every player need a little work to be at his best prior to the first game? I think they do.

“Logic tells me they do. Can an exceptional player play at a high level? Yeah. Will he be as good on gameday as he would be in Week 10? We’ll see,” Holmgren said.

Jones’ agent, Roosevelt Barnes, didn’t return telephone messages seeking comment.

A depth chart released after practice had Jones listed first – ahead of Floyd “Pork Chop” Womack – at left tackle.

Jones stayed in his hometown of Huntsville, Ala., conducting personal workouts – “Running and doing stuff that an offensive lineman would do,” he explained.

A year ago, Jones told reporters his most grueling off-season workouts involved pushing his Cadillac Escalade down the street. He was asked if he did that again this summer.

“I did some of that a little bit,” he said, laughing. “Like I said, I do the things that will help me when I come out here.”

Holmgren said he hadn’t spoken with Jones and probably wouldn’t go out of his way to do so Monday. The conditioning coaches told him Jones reported in good shape.

“As long as the conditioning people tell me he can practice, he’s going to practice,” Holmgren said. “My thought was for the first three days to run him around just to see where he was, but he’s in pretty good shape.”

Jones remains hopeful the front office can negotiate a long-term deal to keep him in Seattle.

“I care about it,” he said. “I want to get it signed. I want to be locked, so I can go finish my career.”

Seahawks make moves

Former Washington State center Joey Hollenbeck is one of seven players signed to the Seahawks’ practice squad Monday.

The others are S Jordan Babineaux, CB Michael Harden, P Donnie Jones, FB R.J. Luke, WR Taco Wallace and WR Jason Willis. All were with the club during the preseason.

“ Seattle claimed safety Marquand Manuel on Monday. He was released Sunday by Cincinnati.

Manuel, a sixth-round 2002 draft choice by the Bengals from the University of Florida, played in 28 games in two seasons with the Bengals, starting nine.