The Seahawks will cast their Pro Bowl ballots beginning today. Fans had their say earlier in the week.
Left tackle Walter Jones is typically a lock to get the all-star nod. When the Pro Bowl rosters are announced next week, however, Jones might not be among the selected.
Players who dominate at their position tend to be Pro Bowlers year after year, based largely on reputation and consistency. Such is the case with Jones, a 12th-year pro who’s been to Hawaii seven times in a row and eight his career. But the Seahawks are 2-11. Jones gave up two sacks to DeMarcus Ware of the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day in front of a national audience. And the seemingly invincible giant has been slowed by a knee injury that last week cost him his first game missed because of injury since his rookie year, 1997.
Jones didn’t practice Wednesday and the chances of him playing this Sunday at St. Louis are 50-50 at best. He might even need some kind of surgery, coach Mike Holmgren indicated Wednesday. But Holmgren and Jones’ peers still view Jones as the best lineman in the game.
“Walter is a warrior,” Holmgren said. Then the coach was asked about whether it’s time for the 34-year-old to retire.
“Well, this is one man’s opinion, and it’s not going to be worth much in a month. I would say, if you look at Walter Jones that way, you’re making a huge mistake,” Holmgren said. “He was on his way to the Pro Bowl again. He might still go to the Pro Bowl. I think around the league, he’s still recognized as one of the guys … With Walter, as long as he’s playing like he’s playing, you let him play as long as he wants to play.”
So how much longer does Jones want to play?
“I look at it as I still love the game,” Jones said. “As long as I can go out there and compete with these guys, I’m going to continue to keep playing. Unless they come to me and say, ‘We don’t need you no more,’ or until I say I’m ready to go home.”
Jones would like to play again this season if his troublesome knee will allow it. He said he still feels good, physically, for so late in the season.
“It’s not that there’s just three games left and the record isn’t what it should be, but I still want to be out there and fight with the guys,” Jones said. “Those are the guys you go to war with each week. It’s a tough game and you want to be out there with those guys when you’re in the heat of battle.”
Jones’ teammates marvel at how the big man has been able to be so good for so long, shutting down so many opposing defensive ends for years. Sean Locklear, who replaced Jones at left tackle last week but has been the Seahawks’ starting right tackle since 2005, said Jones might have slowed a little but still gets the job done.
Left guard Floyd Womack called Jones “a specimen,” “God-gifted,” and “one in a million.”
Opponents also respect Jones immensely.
“He’s just a man,” said St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt. “He’s a guy that you can literally come to the meetings on Wednesday and you can put an ‘X’ on his side, because he can literally eliminate one side [of the field], that’s how good he is. If I was a quarterback I would just back up and shuffle over to his side every time and just do my thing.”
Jones admitted he doesn’t feel like he’s the same player he was six or seven years ago, but he’s learned how to persevere from week to week.
“This game, from playing it so long, your body just takes a toll,” Jones said. “I think it comes from experience. You’ve been in the game for so long, so you kind of know how to do things that some young guys couldn’t get away with.”