SEATTLE, Sept. 17 (UPI) -- Veteran offensive tackle Walter Jones, one of the NFL's best, finally came to contract terms with the Seattle Seahawks late Monday after holding out through the preseason and the first two games of the regular campaign.
The absence of Jones, 28, who has six years of pro experience, was telling.
In losing their first two games, the lack of a rushing attack was one of the team's biggest problems. The 6-5, 326-pound Jones should help immediately in that area.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle has been given a two-week roster exemption to allow Jones to get himself back into playing shape. He told reporters that, if he had to, he would play this Sunday in the encounter at East Rutherford, N.J., against the New York Giants.
"I just wanted to come back and help the team get a victory anyway I can," Jones said. "That was my only reason for coming back, and I missed the guys. This is what I do and I just wanted to come back. I feel good and I'm glad to be back and hopefully we can get something done here."
Jones said the holdout upset him.
"It was very tough, but that's the business side of it and hopefully things will get settled," he said. "But right now I'm just focused on coming out this week and helping the team get ready for the Giants. That is the way the business is and while it was going on I was just getting ready for the season."
The newspaper said that Jones signed the $4.92 million offer the club made in February, when it designated him the team's franchise player. Now that he has signed the offer, the club and Jones can negotiate a long-term contract. Time will tell whether (holding out) was good or bad."
Seattle Coach and General Manager Mike Holmgen Holmgren said the Seahawks simply could not offer more money, but had no explanation for why the holdout ended so abruptly.
"Our rules are set," Holmgren said. "Why he decided to come in and sign the tender now, instead of two weeks ago, I don't know. I'm glad he's in. We missed him. He's a great football player. We need him, and this is the first step."
Quarterback Trent Dilfer, who still is in recovery from a preseason knee injury, said he was elated to have Jones back with the team.
"He's a very good player, obviously," said Dilfer. "He's part of the puzzle and you want to have all your guns blazing when you go into battle, and we just got one of them back. Obviously you want a running game and a great player is going to have an impact on the running game. I hope we can gain some rhythm like we talked about in the running game and Walter may make that happen, but we will see, we have a lot of work to do before Sunday."
The former Florida State All-American started all 16 games at left tackle last season, and has started 69 consecutive regular-season games. He was the sixth overall pick in the 1997 draft.
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