RENTON, Wash. – Never one to bask in attention, Walter Jones sat down in front of prying eyes and ears. And he sighed.
“Oh, man,” the Seahawks’ six-time All-Pro left tackle said.
His pain in detailing the end to his season and perhaps his illustrious career is nothing compared to the aching he feels inside from his surgically repaired knee when he walks or even sits, let alone tries to practice.
The 35-year-old finally went on Seattle’s injured reserve list Wednesday. It ends months of trying to return from the two surgeries the nine-time Pro Bowl selection has had on his left knee since he last played last Thanksgiving.
Yet instead of retiring with riches and nothing left to prove, the pre-eminent left tackle of his time wants to trudge through many more months of rehabilitation and perhaps a third surgery to attempt a return in 2010.
“Because it’s what I love,” the anchor to Seattle’s offensive line for the last decade said, chuckling. “It’s a game that I have put so much pride in and wanted to be the best at. So I still want to come out and do my job and play this game.
“I know I can still go out there and compete with the best of ’em.”
Coach Jim Mora described Jones’ pain as “not bearable” since his microfracture surgery last December and an arthroscopic procedure in August.
Jones alluded to the fact the pain has been exacerbated by a kidney condition diagnosed when he was a rookie back in 1997. It keeps him from taking anti-inflammatories to combat swelling and pain.
“The pain never did leave,” Jones said, mindful of how poorly he played last Thanksgiving Day. He started with the aid of painkilling injections, then watched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck get sacked seven times by rampaging Dallas.
“I’m not going to step on that football field again until I am comfortable in this knee,” Jones said.
Mora said he has no idea whether Jones can return next year.
“We are going to let him heal up, have whatever procedures our medical staff feels is necessary and then we’ll evaluate early next year,” the coach said. “I’ll say this: Walter has done everything that is humanly possible to get back and help this football team. … But it’s just not happening.”
Mora isn’t ready to say goodbye to the man former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren last year called the best offensive player he’s coached.
“It is too early for a career eulogy, but the excellence of Walter is probably unparalleled at that position in the history of the game,” Mora said. “His level of consistency, his level of excellence, is unmatched.”
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