Offensive tackle Walter Jones, one of the premier pass protectors in the league and designated by the Seattle Seahawks as their "franchise" player, ended his holdout and reported to the team Tuesday afternoon.
Jones, 29, signed the one-year qualifying offer for a "franchise" offensive lineman, which is worth $5.904 million. After completing a physical exam, Jones suited up and jogged
onto the field 30 minutes after Tuesday's practice began.
"I'm just ready to come back and play football," Jones said Tuesday afternoon. "That's the whole objective, to get me here to play football."
Jones, who plays left tackle, missed the first two games of 2002
under similar circumstances. He started the remaining 14 and was
voted to his third Pro Bowl, though he didn't play because of
surgery on his right shoulder.
"I've said this before: We want him to be part of what we do
for a long time," coach Mike Holmgren said. "I'd like nothing
better now than to go to work and at some point lock him up to a
long-term deal. We've tried, and it hasn't worked."
It's not determined if Jones will start Sunday. Holmgren said
coaches will ease him back into a routine.
"I feel pretty good,'' said Jones, who reported at 327 pounds,
two pounds lighter than when he ended his holdout last year. "It
takes a couple of days to get yourself in football shape."
Jones has missed all of training camp, as he did a year ago, when he also balked at the "franchise" designation.
"It's just too much guaranteed money to turn down," agent Roosevelt Barnes said of the qualifying offer. "And $350,000 a week, which he would forfeit if he continues to sit, well, that's a lot of money, too."
The two sides have been attempting for months to negotiate a contract but have never come close to consummating a deal. Jones wants to be among the highest-paid blockers in the game, on a par with Jonathan Ogden of Baltimore, and Seahawks officials say they have made offers commensurate to that.
Negotiations broke off two weeks ago, with the Seahawks saying that Jones would play for the qualifying offer or not at all.
Jones' change of heart will be a huge lift for the Seahawks, who on Monday lost starting right tackle Chris Terry to a league-imposed four-game suspension, and who would have been forced to start two backups in Sunday's opener against New Orleans.
It is expected that Jones, a three-time Pro Bowl performer, will play immediately. The Seahawks could petition the league for a two-week roster exemption in order to gauge Jones' conditioning, but he played last year right after signing.
Jones was the team's first-round pick in the 1997 draft. He has appeared in 90 games, all starts, in six seasons.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.