There is no shame in admitting what is was really like lining up against Walter Jones.
Frustrating. Demoralizing. Humbling.
"I’m embarrassed to say it, but it is the truth," former Pro Bowl pass-rusher Bertrand Berry said Wednesday.
Berry couldn't escape Jones wherever he went. They were contemporaries in college -- Jones at Florida State, Berry at Notre Dame -- before entering the NFL in 1997. Berry played for the Broncos when Seattle and Denver were in the AFC West. Berry played for the Cardinals when Seattle and Arizona were in the NFC West. Berry announced his retirement earlier this offseason. Jones' announcement is coming Thursday.
Jones made dominating appear effortless.
"He was so efficient at what he did and I remember looking up at him during a game and I don’t think he had an ounce of sweat on his body," Berry said. "I’m working my tail off and I’m exhausted and he looks like he’s just getting ready to go play a football game. It was demoralizing. To see a guy so smooth and easy about it, it was frustrating. You’re trying everything and it’s not working and it doesn’t look hard for him."
Seattle coaches counted 23 career sacks allowed. I'd bet most came in obvious passing situations and/or when Jones was playing through shoulder problems that required multiple surgeries (a kidney condition prevented him from taking anti-inflammatory medication). Jones allowed a couple of sacks to the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware in his final game while playing with what wound up being a career-ending knee injury. When Ware was a heralded rookie in 2005, I remember someone asking Jones about their impending matchup. It was clear from Jones' answer that Ware wasn't yet someone he knew by name. There wasn't anything disrespectful about it, either. It simply didn't matter who Jones went up against from week to week.
"When you say Walter Jones, I think of the best tackle I have played against in my career," Berry said with no disrespect for Orlando Pace, Jonathan Ogden or any of the other Hall of Fame-caliber opponents he faced. "There was nothing he wasn’t good at. He had great feet, he was strong as a bull and also a very smart guy. Walt was one of the stronger guys I ever went against. If he gets those hands on you, you can forget it. He was so physically strong and gifted at the same time, just one of those rare combination guys. Nobody really played the game quite like he did."
Playing offensive tackle in the NFL's most remote market made it tougher for Jones to get the national respect he deserved. Jones always had the respect of opponents, as reflected in the nine Pro Bowl honors he earned. Others didn't always fully understand Jones' greatness. Mike Holmgren was incredulous one time when a television announcer asked during a production meeting whether the Seahawks planned to help their left tackle in protection against a certain accomplished rusher. Jones never needed help. And when he did get beat, reporters covering the team would pay close attention to the following play. Jones would often destroy his man.
Holmgren once called Reggie White the best defensive player he coached and Jones the best on offense, a statement so profound that Holmgren said he heard from some of the other greats he coached. Jones is expected to be available to reporters at the Seahawks' postdraft minicamp Friday. He'll probably be humble as ever.
"He was business-like, never said a word on the field -- very professional," Berry said. "He should be a first-ballot Hall of Famer and I feel privileged to have gone against him."
Note: The Seahawks called to clarify sacks allowed totals. It's 23, not 33. Even more amazing.