Homecomings aren't what they used to be forJulius Jones.
Last year he had Seattle's date against his former team circledand highlighted beginning seven months before the Seahawks playedat Dallas. He then called it "a huge game for me," adding that hewas "a little salty" about the way he went from owner of theCowboys' first 1,000-yard season since Emmitt Smith in 2001 to acastoff in a matter of months in 2007.
Then Jones fumbled twice and gained 37 yards on 11 brutalcarries, part of Seattle's disastrous Thanksgiving Day loss. CoachMike Holmgren benched him that day, and Jones essentiallydisappeared for the rest of the 2008 season.
No wonder he seems like he's trying to sneak back to Dallas thistime, to play Sunday against the team that discarded him two yearsago.
"Yeah, right now it's just another game," Jones said. "I didthe whole thing last year. It's definitely a better approach (now).I got booed last year, I'm anxious to see what they do this year.They might throw a tomato or something at me."
That's if fans there even remember him.
Jones still owns a home in the Dallas area next to Cowboyscornerback Terence Newman, but said he's rarely in it anymore.Dallas slammed the door on Jones' time there when they gave hisreplacement, Marion Barber, a $45 million contract extension abouta month after Jones left.
And Jones has yet to truly feel at home with the Seahawks, withwhom he signed a four-year contract potentially worth almost $12million in March 2008.
He thought he was done sharing when he left Dallas and Barber.Then a month after he got to Seattle, the Seahawks released formerMVP Shaun Alexander, further clearing Jones' path back to stardom.
Jones, 28, was thought to be the centerpiece to Seattle'sremodeling of its running game two years ago. But Holmgren namedperennial backup Maurice Morris as the co-lead back entering lastseason.
Jones finished with 698 yards rushing and just two touchdowns -barely 100 yards more than his career low from that last year inDallas, with the same amount of scores - and Seattle sank to 4-12.
New coach Jim Mora brought in offensive coordinator Greg Knappand his zone-blocking running game for 2009. Knapp's proven system,with eight consecutive finishes in the NFL's top 10 in rushingoffense, demands backs make one cut and go. The scheme was supposedto better fit Jones' rushing style.
Yet he has just 290 yards in six games, running behind anoffensive line that has been missing three injured starters. He had5 yards on five carries in his last game, Oct. 18 against Arizona,as Seattle (2-4) rushed for a franchise-record low 14 yards in a27-3 loss.
A bigger day from Jones - or at least one better than lastseason's holiday flop in Dallas - could keep healing quarterbackMatt Hasselbeck and thus the Seahawks in the game this time.Without a running game to worry about last November, the Cowboysrampaged for seven sacks of Hasselbeck, who was so battered hedidn't play again last season.
"We couldn't do anything right, they couldn't do wrong," saidHasselbeck, whose broken ribs are still healing. "The whole yearwas tough, but I think that was a painful game in more ways thanone."
Jones may run to nowhere again Sunday in Dallas, given theSeahawks are down to their fifth left tackle, Damion McIntosh, andthat left guard Rob Sims will be starting for the first time infour weeks following a high ankle sprain.
Yet Jones is saying individual accomplishments matter less tohim now than it may have, say, last year before that "huge"homecoming gone bad.
"I want to do well this year," Jones said. "(But) we've gottwo wins, and 10 games left. We're trying to make the playoffs.We're trying to do a lot of great things, and it starts with thisweekend.
"I say it's a must-win. Every game from here on out is amust-win for us."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times