Seahawks' Jones Has Second Knee Surgery

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

RENTON, Wash. (AP) -- The second knee surgery in eight months for Seahawks nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones has removed loose fragments, including scar tissue from the original surgery.

It hasn't removed doubt whether the man widely viewed as the pre-eminent left tackle of the last decade will be able to play in the first few games, if at all this season.

A team spokesman said Thursday morning that Jones' procedure earlier in the day "went well," and arthroscopic surgery found what an MRI this week indicated may be inside the left knee.

The Seahawks will re-evaluate the 35-year-old Jones in a couple of weeks to see if he can play in 2009. His rehabilitation will begin immediately.

Jones had microfracture knee surgery in December. The man against whom all other left tackles are measured practiced just three times in training camp while also hampered by back spasms.

So now the Seahawks begin life without Walter, whom former coach Mike Holmgren -- the molder of Brett Favre in Green Bay -- called the best offensive player he ever coached.

Seattle seems assured of Jones missing his first opener since 2003, when he stayed out all summer in a contract dispute.

"It's kind of hard to imagine the Seahawks without Walter Jones," understudy Ray Willis said in May, when Jones was rehabilitating in the training room. "He's a freak of nature."

Jones has been to eight consecutive Pro Bowls, passing Cortez Kennedy for the most in Seahawks history. He's been All-Pro four times at the most valued position on the line. Despite multiple shoulder surgeries and taking off practices to soothe more pains than he can remember, last season was the first time he missed games due to injury since his rookie year of 1997.

His 180 starts are second in franchise history to wide receiver Steve Largent, the first Seahawk elected to the Hall of Fame.

"You can't really do it like he does," said Rob Sims, the starter at left guard, next to where Jones is supposed to be. "He's an unbelievable player, an unbelievable person. Walt, he's got a heart of a lion. When he gets back, we'll roll."

Until then, usual right tackle Sean Locklear will start for Jones. Willis, a brutish former fourth-round pick, will start at right tackle. Rookie Max Unger, a second-round draft choice and All-Pac-10 center last season at Oregon, will battle third-year reserve Mansfield Wrotto at right guard -- where Locklear had been scheduled to get time.

And the "puzzle" new coach Jim Mora and new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp hoped to solve in training camp remains jumbled.

Yet team president Tim Ruskell says this is why he re-signed Locklear and Willis to new deals in the last 18 months. This is the Walter Jones succession plan.

It's just that the plan is coming to fruition sooner than Seattle expected. For now, anyway.

"At some point Walt is going to move on and wait his turn to go into the Hall of Fame, and Sean's going to be the left tackle ... and he's given us a chance to look at Unger more," Mora said.

"In the long run it's going to help us -- at least that's how I want to look at it."

Willis has started 10 games in four pro seasons, all in 2008 while Jones and the rest of the offensive line was ravaged by injuries.

"We always talk to players about opportunities," Knapp said. "So really, for a lot of these guys, it's a great opportunity."


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