It would appear that, barring a miracle, All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones will never play another down for the Seattle Seahawks. The Seahawks placed Jones on the injured reserve today, ending his season and likely his career.
The Seahawks held out hope all season that the six-time Pro Bowler would make it back from two knee surgeries in less than a year to give the team some much needed protection. Coach Jim Mora didn't rule out a third surgery for Jones nor would he shut the door on Jones giving it one more shot in 2010. That, however, seems like wishful thinking.
So what changed between August(when Jones had surgery to clear out loose bodies in his surgically repaired left knee) and now, you ask? Nothing. That's the point. With Jones suffering from a kidney condition that makes taking anti-inflammatory medication impossible, Jones' knee just never fully recovered. After all, Jones is 35 and it's just unrealistic to think that a man's knee can heal properly while being dealing with the pressure of holding up a 325-pound man. While Mora was unwilling to give a “career eulogy” for Jones, it might be time to break out the speech writers for Jones' inevitable retirement speech. If Jones does opt for a third surgery and tries to give it a go next season, he would be making a comeback attempt at 36 having not seen the field since last Thanksgiving. That would close to two years of inactivity for a man who will certainly struggle to stay in shape while recovering from his third knee operation in a year.
So what now? Well, as it pertains to this week, the team will probably opt for recently signed veteran Damien McIntosh as its fourth starting left tackle of the season when it takes on Dallas this Sunday at The House That Jerry Jones Built. Sean Locklear, who had been Jones' fill-in but has missed the last few weeks with an ankle injury, will probably not be ready to return this week. That doesn't bode well for QB Matt Hasselbeck, who has missed a couple practices this week as his fractured rib is still sore, having to face a Cowboys defense led by pass-rush dynamo DeMarcus Ware.
As for the future, the Seahawkshave two first round picks in next April's draft(their own and Carolina's) and it would be wise on the part of Seahawks GM Tim Ruskell to look at a left tackle with one of those spots. The failed return of Jones has brought on much criticism of Ruskell for not having the foresight to at least pad the potential blow of a failed Jones comeback by using a pick last year on potential heir apparent. In fact, Ruskell only used one pick to improve a woeful offensive line that was decimated by injuries last season and that was 2nd round pick Max Unger(a guard/center 'tweener). A guy who makes the most sense for Seattle is Oklahoma St.'s Russell Okung, a 6'5 300-pounder who is projected to go somewhere in the Top 10. If Seattle somehow makes a turn-around and finds themselves in the middle of the first round, Maryland's Bruce Campbell(6'7, 310lbs) or Rutgers' Anthony Davis(6'6 330) would be suitable backup options.
If today's news was indeed the death knell for Big Walt's career, then it shouldn't be long before his name is called to Canton. Walter Jones was/is one of the 5 or 10 best offensive linemen to ever step foot on a football field. The team has clearly felt the effects of his absence in the lineup and it will continue to cause an distinct impact over the remaining 10 weeks of the season. For now, the Seahawks are in a familiar position: Staring up at the top of the division with an all-star cast on the injured reserve.
About the Author
Written by Dave Leonardis
Born and raised in New Jersey, I've been writing since I was 10 and blogging since I was 18. I'm a huge sports nerd, following football, baseball and basketball in particular in close detail. My style is very upfront. I don't pull punches and I'm not shy about criticizing anything I feel deserves a proper tongue-lashing. If you're looking for someone who says what he wants, when he wants, then look no further than this guy right here.