After missing the last 20 games following a pair of knee surgeries that finally took their toll on his 36-year-old body, Seahawks nine-time Pro Bowl OLT Walter Jones officially announced his retirement Thursday on the eve of the team's first 2010 minicamp. The team said it would immediately retire his No. 71 jersey.
Selected as the sixth overall player in the 1997 draft by the Seahawks, Jones went on to become arguably the best modern-era left tackle in NFL history.
Jones became a virtual nonfactor, however, after being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 28, 2009, and he had hinted on and off in the past year on his Twitter account that he was ready to call it a career.
The Seahawks struggled mightily at left tackle without Jones, being forced to use four different players at the position last season. After choosing not to address the OLT position in the draft the previous two seasons, the Seahawks used their first pick (sixth overall) this season on Russell Okung, who they hope can come close to being as solid a cornerstone as Jones was for well over a decade in Seattle.
In addition to being voted to nine Pro Bowls, the 6-5, 325-pounder with the footwork of a ballerina was a seven-time All-Pro. While at his dominating peak, Jones was recognized by John Madden in a 2004 NFL broadcast as "the best player in the league."
Jones was a member of the 2005 Seahawks team that reached Super Bowl XL against the Steelers and was the primary force on an offensive line that paved the way for a banner breakout season by RB Shaun Alexander. From 1998 through 2000, he also helped Ricky Watters to achieve three straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons for the Seahawks.
It is difficult not to imagine Jones becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer five years from now.
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