Walter Jones: Countdown to Canton with Patrick Kerney

Posted Jul 24, 2014

Nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 2.

Patrick Kerney had the rare honor of playing against and also being teammates with Walter Jones.

Although “honor” is not the word the former defensive end who was the Seahawks’ sack leader in 2007 and 2009 opts for.

“Unfortunately, I had very good first-hand knowledge of how good Walt was,” said Kerney, who retired after the 2009 season and is now the NFL’s vice president of players benefits. “I guess when you start playing on the same team with someone and witness them every day; you grow even more impressed with how consistently good they are.”

His first glimpses of Jones, a nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle, came while Kerney was playing the first eight seasons of his NFL career with the Atlanta Falcons.

“I certainly was able to watch him on Sundays when there were times our games didn’t overlap,” Kerney said.

But there were only three facemask-to-facemask encounters between the foes that would become teammates when Kerney signed with the Seahawks in 2007: a 2000 game in Atlanta, when Kerney had three tackles but no sacks; the 2004 regular-season finale game in Seattle, when Kerney had a sack among his four tackles; and a Week 2 matchup in Seattle in 2005, when Kerney had no sacks and two assisted tackles.

Asked after signing with the Seahawks to describe that ’05 encounter with Jones, Kerney offered, “It was like wrestling a bear for three hours.”

But when that bear is on your side, it changes the perspective in a hurry.

“To see Walt – every day, day in and day out – on the practice field he was just that much more impressive,” Kerney said. “Walt was a really rare athlete.”

The man most people call Big Walt or just Walt will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 2. To commemorate his latest – and greatest – football achievement, is asking those who played with him and against him, coached him and knew him best for their thoughts on Jones. Today, it’s Kerney.

The connection: Kerney was a two-time Pro Bowl selection – in 2004, when he had 13 sacks with the Falcons; and again in 2007, when he led the NFC with 14.5 sacks with the Seahawks. He finished his career with 82.5 sacks and 401 tackles. But when he faced Jones, Kerney was rendered among those who became just another player while facing the best left tackle of his generation and likely the best to ever play the position.

“What was so unique about Walt is he was light as a feather when he was pass blocking, but heavy as a board when he was run blocking,” Kerney can now say with a laugh. “Should you choose to bull-rush him; he could switch that real quick, too.

“In the run game, he was one of two guys where I’d hit into him and I’d lock him out and I would still feel myself going backwards. (The other player was Willie Anderson of the Cincinnati Bengals).”   

The congratulations: “I thought they should have made an exception and let Walt in after four years,” Kerney cracked, referring to the Hall’s five-year waiting period for induction after a player retires. “It’s like, ‘They all know it’s going to happen here, let’s not put it off.’ ”

In closing: “The first time (former defensive coordinator) Gus Bradley saw Walter in the weight room, he said, ‘Walter Jones, the man they ask to reach five-technique (the end lined up opposite Jones). Who does that? Nobody does that,’ ” Kerney said. “They called for Walter, on the open side, to reach open five-techniques. And the general consensus is that defensive ends in the NFL are talented enough that without some type of chip to get a tackle an advantage to reach and block a five, it’s just not going to happen. Well, (then-coach) Mike Holmgren clearly knew differently. And the list of those of us who fell victim to the open-side reach is long and esteemed. The guy did something no one else was asked to do.”