KIRKLAND, Wash. (April 29, 2005) -- Walter Jones did something different.
For the first time in four years, Seattle's perennial Pro Bowl left tackle reported for a minicamp, where he stretched and took snaps with teammates.
It's routine for most NFL players, but Jones has skipped minicamps and training camp for the previous three years after the Seahawks used their franchise player designation on him.
"I'm glad to be back," said Jones, a five-time Pro Bowl performer. "I'm glad things got done and I'm glad to be back with the players. I'm enjoying it."
It took years, but his agent finally worked out a long-term contract with the front office and Jones signed a seven-year deal in February. It meant Jones had to show up at the office, but he did it with a smile.
"I'm very happy with the deal," he said. "I was happy when I signed it. All I've got to do now is come out and play, do my job."
After Jones signed, Seattle placed its franchise tag on running back Shaun Alexander, who was a no-show and isn't expected to attend the six-day minicamp. It's not certain yet if he'll show up at training camp.
"No advice for Shaun. Just when he decides to come in, be ready to play," Jones said. "It's a business, man. I don't try to step on anybody about their decisions. If that's his decision, just be prepared to play when he comes in."
At least Jones can back up what he's saying.
Few players have succeeded on the field despite so much time away from teammates, but Jones demonstrated the discipline to work out on his own and maintain his skill levels while teammates labored in camps.
"He's played very, very well without training camp. That's been documented," coach Mike Holmgren said. "But I've always said it wasn't so much about Walter. It was about the other guys. We can stick them in their positions and let them practice."
The bonus for Seattle with Jones back is that Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack can work out at right tackle, where he's projected to play. In earlier years, Womack filled in on the left side until the season began and Jones showed up.
"Walt has proven he doesn't need training camp," quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "But I think it will help the team a lot. He doesn't need to be here as much as we need him to be here."
Despite Jones' absences through the years, teammates haven't built up resentment. They understand the business issues and they've supported him, and he remains one of the most popular men in the locker room.
"It's good to have him in. He's one of your brothers," center Robbie Tobeck said.
Hasselbeck added: "He's just a great team guy, definitely one of my favorite teammates."
That doesn't mean they don't let him have a little ribbing. Now that he's back, Jones had to absorb a merciless run of teasing from Tobeck and the other offensive linemen.
"When we were warming up, I told him, 'Walt, we do this every practice. This is part of our routine,' " Tobeck recalled. "We showed him around, showed him where the meeting rooms are.
"He thought we had a game at the end of the week. That's why he showed up. But we were able to talk him into staying."