Ex-MVP Shaun Alexander returns to Seattle in backup role with Washington
Former NFL Most Valuable Player Shaun Alexander returns to Seattle on Sunday in a most unlikely role: He is an afterthought.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Redskins @ Seahawks, 1:15 p.m., Ch. 13
RENTON — Shaun Alexander returns to Seattle this weekend, cast in a most unlikely role.
He is an afterthought.
Three years after Alexander became the only Seahawk to be named MVP, he is buried on Washington's depth chart.
In Seattle, Alexander set an NFL record for touchdowns in a season then became the focal point for fans' dissatisfaction because of the running game's decline the past two years. In Washington, he joined the Redskins in midseason and has carried the ball just once in the past two games.
Seattle decided this offseason its rushing offense would be better off without Alexander, and it is, but just slightly. Alexander, meanwhile, spent the first month of the season out of the league and he has not had more than six carries in any game.
That makes Alexander's return more like a footnote than a major story line for Sunday's game.
"It's going to be weird," Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said of seeing Alexander on the opposing team. "We were together a long time."
The Seahawks drafted Alexander in the first round of the 2000 draft, and he spent the next eight seasons running his way to the top of the franchise rushing records. He surpassed 1,000 yards rushing five consecutive seasons (2001-05), scoring more than 16 touchdowns each year.
His yards per carry declined in 2006 and again in 2007. Alexander never missed a game because of injury in his first six seasons, then suffered a broken bone in his foot in 2006, a broken bone in his wrist in 2007, then a sprained a knee ligament that kept him out a month.
Fans began to complain about his inability to run through contact, and he was booed at home after short runs. The Seahawks' running game, so dominant in 2005, eventually became so ineffective that halfway through last season Holmgren said to heck with it and announced he was going to start throwing more.
"He'd never been hurt, and it affected how he did things," Holmgren said. "But when he wasn't hurt, he was great. Think about what he did, my goodness, he was great for us. He just got blamed for it all, and that was not fair."
Alexander wasn't available to answer questions this week until today.
When free agency began in March, the Seahawks did something their one-time franchise back was known for: They changed directions. They signed T.J. Duckett and then added Julius Jones, two moves that set the stage for the eventual release of Alexander just two years after he received an $11.5 million signing bonus to return to the team.
President Tim Ruskell warned Alexander a change might be coming, and Alexander never expressed bitterness, even when Washington finally signed him.
The question the past two years in Seattle was just how much Alexander was to blame for the Seahawks' rushing decline given the changes on the offensive line. Guard Steve Hutchinson left as a free agent in 2006, and center Robbie Tobeck retired before the 2007 season.
In Washington, Alexander went to the team whose line has opened enough holes for Clinton Portis to run for more yards than anyone in the NFL except for Minnesota's Adrian Peterson. In four games, Alexander's longest carry is 8 yards.
The Seahawks aren't running away from anyone in Alexander's absence, either, though both the average yards per game and per carry have increased. Seattle has had its two lowest rushing totals of the season the past three games.
Holmgren says the team is better running the ball this season, something that can also be attributed to the free-agent addition of left guard Mike Wahle. The improvement, however, has been masked by Seattle's difficulties passing the ball.
"When we had no passing game to scare anybody, people bunched the box on us," Holmgren said.
That's left Seattle without any room to run in this season in which the Seahawks are 2-8 for the first time under Holmgren. Washington is 6-4 and tied for second place in the NFC East, but Alexander's numbers have never been worse, which makes Sunday's meeting more like a reunion than a grudge match.
"It'll be good to see him again," Holmgren said. "I haven't seen him in a while."
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
UPDATE - 07:23 AM
NFL, union resume labor talks at mediator's office
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.