SEATTLE—New Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates says quarterback Matt Hasselbeck "has been incredible" learning his new system. He says running backs Julius Jones and Justin Forsett will fit Seattle's new offense well.
Yet Bates won't discuss Walter Jones' status for 2010.
Speaking Tuesday for the first time since moving north from Southern California last month, Bates said left tackle is extremely important but that he "won't get involved with what route we're going" at Jones' position.
The 36-year-old Jones posted on his Twitter page last weekend that "it is time for me to retire from football." He hasn't played since Thanksgiving Day 2008 following two surgeries on his left knee.
Jones, the anchor to Seattle's offensive line since 1997, has used Twitter to hint at retirement over the last few months. But when asked publicly Jones has said he still had a passion to play and that he intended to test the knee in a spring minicamp. He has been rehabilitating for months in Florida.
Seahawks executives have traded messages this week with the six-time All-Pro, but they have yet to reconfirm what Jones' plans are for 2010.
Bates is beginning his eighth year as an NFL assistant, after a one-season stint as Pete Carroll's offensive coordinator at USC. He said of Jones: "In my short career in the NFL, he's the best left tackle I ever seen."
"To have him play left is something special, because you don't even have to think about who that stud defensive end is," Bates said. "You just say, 'Walter's got him."'
He said that when he was a Broncos assistant from 2006-08, whenever Jones showed up on game films that Denver was studying of opposing defenses, Broncos linemen would just stare in awe at the nine-time Pro Bowler instead of watching their assigned defenders.
Seattle is 9-23 since the start of the 2008 season, when Jones' left knee began to ache before microfracture surgery in December of that year. That cost him his first games due to injury since his rookie season of 1997.
The Seahawks recently finished their worst two-year stretch since 1992-93.
The heir to Jones, as selected by recently ousted GM and president Tim Ruskell, is Sean Locklear. Locklear has been a disappointment when not injured.
Jones tried to return for training camp last summer, made it through a couple of practices, then had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in August. He later went on the injured reserve list. His pain has been exacerbated by a kidney condition diagnosed when he was a rookie that keeps him from taking anti-inflammatories to combat swelling and pain.
Last month he said his knee felt good but acknowledged it was a long way from playing shape.
Asked whether he would try to play for another team should the Seahawks think Jones is finished, Jones said: "If it comes down to that, I have had a great career."
The 34-year-old Hasselbeck has one year left on his contract. Bates said Hasselbeck has constantly been inside Seahawks headquarters recently learning the new terminology of the offense.
Bates brings the third offense Hasselbeck has had to know in 14 months. The new coordinator marvels at Hasselbeck's experience as a former Super Bowl and three-time Pro Bowl quarterback, one who "has run every play in America" under different terminology in his career.
"He's a heck of a player," Bates said. "We're very fortunate to be able to walk into an organization with Matt Hasselbeck being the leader."