By Kathleen Nelson
Saturday, Oct. 08 2005

Seattle Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has a sense of the uncertainty at Rams
Park caused by the illness of his counterpart, Mike Martz.

"I had a little episode myself," Holmgren said in reference to chest pains he
suffered this spring.

A battery of tests revealed no serious heart damage, though Holmgren missed one
of Seattle's minicamps.

"The doctor told me, you have to relieve some stress in your life. I said,
'that's good advice,'" Holmgren said, trying not to make fun of the simple

He is less cavalier and more of a mother hen about the health of his defensive
coordinator, Ray Rhodes, who suffered a stroke last month. He has returned to
the Seahawks' practice facility, though he has turned over the coordinator's
on-field duties to linebackers coach John Marshall.

"Ray was a very serious situation," Holmgren said, adding that he keeps a close
watch on Rhodes to keep him from overextending himself and refuses to allow
Rhodes to return full-time until doctors give the OK. "I'm kind of hard on him.
He's just starting to come out on the field."

Dealing with Rhodes' illness was just the latest transition for the Seahawks'
defense, which features seven new starters. The makeover stemmed from the
Seahawks finishing 26th overall in defense last year. Through four games, they
are 14th.

"It's no different than the situation we were in St. Louis a few years ago,
where we kind of blew up the defense and then we went out and made it to the
Super Bowl that year," said defensive end Grant Wistrom, who left the Rams
after 2003 to sign with Seattle. "We still have a long way to go, but I like
the guys we have and I like the defense, more so than the defense we had last
year. It's a lot more fun to go out and work with guys you enjoy."

Injuries have forced changes on offense, where starting wide receivers Darrell
Jackson and Bobby Engram are out for Sunday's game against the Rams. Jackson,
suffering from a knee injury, was third in the NFL with 29 catches after four
games. Engram (knee) was fourth with 27. Their replacements would be Peter
Warrick and Joe Jurevicius, who have caught one and seven passes, respectively.

"Guys get hurt, and the next guy has to step up," Holmgren said. "If you ask
the players, they think they should be playing, not the guy who is starting.
Now these guys will get a chance. They've worked hard to get themselves in this
position. But can I say, will it be the same? No, I can't"

The game plan might include a heapin' helping of running back Shaun Alexander,
who leads the NFL with 455 rushing yards and is first in the NFC with six
touchdowns. Seeing Alexander's name at the top of the rushing stats is no
surprise. He finished second in rushing to Curtis Martin last year by just a

Seeing him in a Seahawks uniform is more surprising. Alexander criticized the
team for keeping the ball out of his hands in the closing minutes of the last
game of the regular season, thereby thwarting his chances at the rushing title.
He seemed destined to depart. Instead, the Seahawks put the franchise tag on
Alexander, who settled for a one-year contract. His output seems to indicate
that he's comfortable for at least another year.

"He went through an offseason of uncertainly in his own mind," Holmgren said.
"I always wanted him here. ... He's off to a great start and if he keeps
playing the way he's playing, he could have his best season ever, which is
saying something since he's always gained a lot of yards. He's pass blocking,
he's doing the things that are not as glamorous for him, and he's going a nice
job with that."