Seahawks could have OT Jones, C Spencer back next week

RENTON, Wash. -- Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones and starting center Chris Spencer won't play in the Seattle Seahawks' season opener Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, but both players could return next week.

Coach Jim Mora said Wednesday that two of the three injured starters on Seattle's jumbled offensive line have "a chance" to play Sept. 20 at San Francisco.

Height: 6-5

Weight: 325

Experience: 13th season

College: Florida State

Jones, 35, will miss his first season opener since 2003, when he stayed out all summer in a contract dispute. The anchor of Seattle's line for the last decade had his second knee surgery in eight months a few weeks ago.

Sean Locklear will start in Jones' place against the Rams, with Ray Willis playing at Locklear's old spot, right tackle.

Spencer tore a quadriceps muscle in the second preseason game last month. Steve Vallos will start at center Sunday.

"I don't want to look ahead because I'm talking about focusing on this game, but just for your knowledge: There is a chance that both of those guys could be ready to come back next week," Mora said Wednesday morning of Jones and Spencer. "So we'll just see where we are next week."

The third injured starter on the line is long gone. The Seahawks released left guard Mike Wahle at the start of training camp after the former two-time Pro Bowler failed a physical following shoulder surgery. The team moved former right guard Rob Sims to the left side.

Max Unger, a second-round draft pick who was an All-Pac-10 center at Oregon last season, is now starting at right guard and is the backup to Vallos.

"I'm comfortable with the starting five. I think that they will perform very, very well," Mora said, adding he's also confident in backup guard Mansfield Wrotto. "So I think our three interior positions, both guards and the center, we're well covered."

Jones had microfracture surgery on his left knee last December and then an arthroscopic procedure on Aug. 20 to remove scar tissue and fragments. Until the return of the man former coach Mike Holmgren, the molder of Brett Favre in Green Bay, called the best offensive player he ever coached, Seattle has only one other tackle on the roster: Brandon Frye. He was claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins last weekend.

Mora called Frye's unfamiliarity with the offense his biggest, immediate concern on the line, "aside from the fact we don't have two of our starters playing in 'Spence' and Walter."

Mora also made clear that 35-year-old safety Lawyer Milloy signed this week to be a backup and that the four-time Pro Bowler and former Super Bowl winner with the New England Patriots understands that. Jordan Babineaux is the Seahawks' starter next to Deon Grant.

Notes: WR Deion Branch missed practice because of a hamstring injury, two days after he returned kickoffs for the first time this summer but then was in obvious pain while skipping the last plays of Monday's workout. The Super Bowl XXXIX MVP has had two knee operations since February 2008. Mora said Branch will be "limited" this week and didn't give his status for Sunday's game against the Rams. ... WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh practiced after sitting out all last week and Monday to rest what a team spokesman called "general soreness." ... DE Patrick Kerney said his surgically repaired left shoulder feels great, and he no longer notices the brace that he will wear throughout this season. The two-time Pro Bowler has had operations on the shoulder in each of the last two years.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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