Monday, July 20, 2009

Big Walt Talks 2009 and "Whatever's Next"

by: Mike Parker

After the dust settled from the tornado of suck that was last season, there were a lot of questions that remained.

Some of these questions were as uncertain as the times we live in, while others were answered the minute Jim Mora began speaking at his first press conference with the team.

One of these questions remains, however -- and that is the health of perennial left tackle Walter Jones.

Jones recently spoke with John Clayton on KIRO 710 AM, and's Scott Eklund has the writeup here. Mostly, Jones talked about his recovery from microfracture surgery and how his affected knee is recovering, but he also touched on a few areas on which we haven't heard him speak much.

"Once I got to 10 years I said I was going to take it one year at a time and I think that’s helped me out by just being ready for that one year," Jones said. "I just pray that I can get through this season and be healthy and then I can sit down and make a good decision saying ‘do I want my body to go through this again?’. Every year I make that decision because it’s a tough season and what I went through last year was even tougher so you still have to sit down and weigh your options."
Big Walt also talks about how his potential successors are panning out going into training camp. He says Sean Locklear, Rob Sims and Ray Willis are ready to play at a high level, because they've had the experience and the cohesion as a unit to really play at a high level this year. I still question Sims' ability to stay healthy and show competence on the field, but maybe with the addition of upstart linemen, he'll step up his game a notch. Or he'll sprain something and get cut before Week 1. Either way, he needs to show a lot more than he has. I'm excited to see what Unger can do, both at guard and center, and I sincerely hope Jones is onto something about Sims and Locklear. Strangely, the least of my concerns is Ray Willis, as I think he's shown the best overall skill level of the three veterans mentioned here.

But what Jones ultimately gets at in this interview, it seems, is his future. Many have speculated that Jones could fizzle out this year and be supplanted immediately by a protege (Locklear), but if he comes back healthy, the sky really is the limit -- especially with a new zone-blocking scheme being installed.
"It’s a lot different than what we used to do with coach Holmgren, but I still think we have to be accountable for what we do out there, but everybody is protecting everybody, Jones noted. "The backs are reading two blocks and once those guys make the decision where to go and they go, then that should make things easier for us."
There may still be many questions that will linger until a few weeks into the season, but one thing is certain: Walter Jones' mind is still right where it should be. It's up to his body to follow suit.