Jones, Hutchinson: 2 Halves Make a Hole
Thursday, February 2, 2006
DETROIT, Feb. 1 -- The quarterback says the left tackle is the best player in football. The left guard calls the team's Pro Bowl selections at quarterback, tailback and fullback a supporting cast. Welcome to the odd world of the Seattle Seahawks, a Super Bowl team that may make it cool to be an offensive lineman.
Offensive linemen usually revel in their obscurity. On some NFL teams, the blockers make pacts not to talk to reporters -- ensuring that no one starts to think of himself as a star instead of just a cog in a supposedly cohesive unit -- although they often are among the most thoughtful and personable men in the locker room. But as the Seahawks prepare to face the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the Super Bowl, they are unabashed in calling their left tackle, Walter Jones, and their left guard, Steve Hutchinson, the best pair of blockers in the sport. In the case of Jones, they take it a step further.
"He's the best player on our team, for sure," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said. "He might be the best player in the game."
And this is a club that includes tailback Shaun Alexander, the league's most valuable player. It turns out that the only persons who disagrees is Jones.
"That's great, man," he said Wednesday when told of Hasselbeck's characterization of him. "But I have learned in this league, man, if you buy into stuff like that, you will get a reality check."
Broadcaster John Madden, the former Oakland Raiders coach who is up for election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this weekend, said the praise of Jones and Hutchinson is justified.
"They're the best," Madden said. "Walter Jones is the best left tackle. Hutchinson is one of the best guards."
Jones is in his ninth NFL season from Florida State. He has been elected to six Pro Bowls, including the last five, and the Seahawks rewarded him last offseason by signing him to a seven-year, $52.5 million contract. He has spent his career toiling on a mostly unnoticed team tucked away in the northwest corner of the country, but the Seahawks' run to the Super Bowl has put a bit of a spotlight on him. He even gets recognized now, he said, when he's out and about in Seattle.
"I don't have to have to worry about it like a quarterback, or like if Shaun goes into a store," he said. "I don't have to worry about getting mobbed or nothing. But I have fans that will come up to me and say, 'Nice game,' or something like that."
Rarely does he have a bad game. He has remarkable quickness and coordination for a man listed at 6 feet 5, 315 pounds, and he has developed his blocking techniques to the point that they're nearly perfect.
"It's unbelievable, his foot speed and his agility," Hutchinson said. "He's a competitor. He's a technician. He wants to do things right. He's the type of guy who's going to work harder than anybody in the weight room and doing sprints in the offseason. He just takes pride in what he does, and he continues to work and continues to get better."
Jones acknowledged that he pays close attention to the careers of the league's other high-profile left tackles, including Jonathan Ogden of the Baltimore Ravens and Orlando Pace of the St. Louis Rams.