RENTON, Wash. -- Never one to bask in attention, Walter Jones sat down in front of prying eyes and ears. And he sighed.
His pain in detailing the end to his season and perhaps his illustrious NFL career is nothing compared to the aching he feels inside from his surgically repaired knee when he walks or even sits, let alone tries to practice.
The 35-year-old finally went on Seattle's injured reserve list Wednesday. It ends months of Jones trying to return from the two surgeries he had on his left knee after he last played last Thanksgiving.
Yet instead of retiring with riches and nothing left to prove, the pre-eminent left tackle of his time wants to trudge through many more months of rehabilitation and perhaps a third surgery to attempt a return in 2010.
"Because it's what I love," Jones said, chuckling. "It's a game that I have put so much pride in and wanted to be the best at. So I still want to come out and do my job and play this game.
"I know I can still go out there and compete with the best of 'em."
Seahawks coach Jim Mora described Jones' pain as "not bearable" since his microfracture surgery last December and an arthroscopic procedure in August.
Jones alluded to the fact that the pain has been exacerbated by a kidney condition diagnosed when he was a rookie back in 1997. It keeps him from taking anti-inflammatories to combat swelling and pain.
"The pain never did leave," Jones said, mindful of how poorly he played last Thanksgiving Day. He started with the aid of painkilling injections, then watched quarterback Matt Hasselbeck be sacked seven times by the rampaging Dallas Cowboys.
"I'm not going to step on that football field again until I am comfortable in this knee," Jones said.
Mora said he has no idea whether Jones can return next year.
"We are going to let him heal up, have whatever procedures our medical staff feels is necessary and then we'll evaluate early next year," the coach said. "I'll say this: Walter has done everything that is humanly possible to get back and help this football team. ... But it's just not happening."
Mora isn't ready to say goodbye to the man whom former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren last year called the best offensive player he has ever coached.
"It is too early for a career eulogy, but the excellence of Walter is probably unparalleled at that position in the history of the game," Mora said. "His level of consistency, his level of excellence, is unmatched."
In 2008, Jones missed his first games because of injury since his rookie season of 1997. In that span, he was widely considered to be the best player at the most important position on the offensive line, a brick wall who protects the right-handed quarterback's blind side from the league's fastest pass rushers.
And the stars keep falling in Seattle.
Three-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu was in Alabama on Wednesday having specialist Dr. James Andrews assess his torn pectoral muscle. Andrews will help the Seahawks determine whether Tatupu will join Jones on injured reserve.
Hasselbeck missed his second consecutive practice. The three-time Pro Bowl passer's broken ribs still aren't healed, though Mora emphasized that Hasselbeck will start Sunday at Dallas "at full strength." Hasselbeck missed 2½ games after fracturing ribs high in his back Sept. 20 at San Francisco.
"He's what, about five weeks out? And they say it's about a six-week healing process to get it all the way back," Mora said. "It's not a big deal."
Jones couldn't get through a training-camp practice in August. Soon after, he had a second knee surgery in nine months.
The microfracture surgery in December had doctors drill holes in the knee to regenerate cartilage. The general recovery time for that operation calls for running to begin by six months and a return to competition by nine months, a span that would have ended two days before the season opener. But few if any have had that surgery while in their mid-30s and needing to support about 350 pounds on a knee with holes drilled into it.
"It was talked about," Jones said of being unique among athletes who have had microfracture surgery. "I knew it was going to be a long process. It's still a long process.
"It's tough. Ever since I played football, I've always been there."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press