No Seahawks panic over Pro Bowler Walter Jones missing 5th straight day

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Left tackle Walter Jones missed a fifth consecutive day of Seahawks practice because of a sore shoulder -- and Seattle coach Mike Holmgren wants the counting to end there about the perennial Pro Bowler and key to the Seahawks' remade offensive line.

"We are not going turn this into one of these 'Diary: Day Six. Day Seven. Day Eight,' are we? He's going to be fine. He's fine," Seattle's coach said Tuesday, after Jones spent the morning in the training room before walking out to watch the last 15 minutes of practice.

"He could have practiced today. But honestly, I just want him ready to play in the first ballgame."

The 33-year-old Jones, whose seven Pro Bowls are tied with Steve Largent for second in Seattle history behind Cortez Kennedy's eight, said the shoulder was a little sore but getting better.

Jones said he got injured "just banging" with fellow linemen in practice last week. He thinks he will probably be able to practice late this week and added that he would be able play this weekend if it was a regular season game.

But since Sunday is simply the exhibition opener at San Diego, he likely will watch - though Holmgren wouldn't say so yet.

"I mean, he could play. He's in good shape. He's honest about how he feels. I really just want him ready to play in the first ballgame," Holmgren said.

Jones is one of only two starting linemen left from Seattle's Super Bowl season of 2005. The other is Sean Locklear. The usual right tackle has been taking Jones' place on the left side this week. Tom Ashworth, a former Super Bowl starter for New England, has been the first-team right tackle but will go back to reserve duty when Jones returns.

"I'm just taking it real slow," Holmgren said. "He's going to be one of our guys we are going to need to play all season and play well. So I'm probably being a little bit nice to him."

Although he would appear to have little to gain from playing in any of the four preseason games, Jones wants to.

"There's always a reason to play," he said. "You want to perform. You still want to go out there and bang with the guys you practice with everyday, against other guys. We don't get the luxury of scrimmaging against other teams like some teams do."

Jones isn't the only star Holmgren will be preserving this month.

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said Saturday that doctors want him to be greatly limited during preseason games, seven months after surgery on his non-throwing shoulder - though Hasselbeck added "hopefully we can push the envelope on that a little bit."

And Holmgren said Shaun Alexander will play sparingly, as usual, before Seattle opens the regular season against Tampa Bay on Sept. 9.

This month, the 2005 NFL MVP turns 30 - the age at which running backs' statistics historically begin a steady decline.

"Is he going to be 30? I had no idea how old Shaun was," Holmgren said. "Regardless, we would practice him the same way. He's not going to play much in the preseason and he's going to get ready to go -- like all of our core guys, the guys we are counting on and that have a little experience.

When asked if this might be the season perennial backup Maurice Morris begins to get some of Alexander's workload during the regular season, Holmgren shook his head.

"If Shaun's healthy, we'll do it the way we've always done," he said. "There will probably be no change there."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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