Seattle offense clicks behind running back
By Lori Shontz
Of the Post-Dispatch
Saturday, Nov. 13 2004
It isnít like Seattle running back Shaun Alexander is invisible, exactly. He
has gained more than 1,000 yards every season since 2001. He went to the Pro
Bowl last season. Headed into Sundayís game with the Rams, he is the NFCís
leading rusher with 879 yards.
But no, heís not the leagueís most prominent player, not the guy whoís all over
television, endorsing products or breaking yet another run on the highlight
shows. But thatís exactly what Alexander expected after he was drafted by the
Seahawks in the first round of the 2000 draft.
"Itís bittersweet both ways," Alexander said. "It would be great to be in a
city where thereís bright lights and all the commercials, to be with the best
of the best. And then, thereís times where youíre (thinking), ĎMan, you know
what? Letís just go out to the nicest restaurant in town and not be hassled.í"
Alexander laughed. "I guess for me, the simplest way to take it is I enjoy
wherever I am, and Iím going to have fun wherever Iím at."
For the past two weeks, the best place for Alexander has been on the football
field, as the focal point for the Seahawksí offense. Seattle broke a three-game
losing streak on Halloween, when Alexander rushed for 195 yards and a touchdown
on 32 carries. A week ago, the Seahawks beat San Francisco thanks largely to
Alexander, who carried 26 times for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Seattle coach Mike Holmgren, however, doesnít think his teamís recent success
is due solely to rediscovering Alexander, who rushed for only 77 and 65 yards,
respectively, in losses to the New England Patriots and Arizona Cardinals.
"It seems that way, I know it seems that way," Holmgren said. "But really, the
games unfold the way they unfold. But ... having said that, yeah, I think we
have a really good running back, and Iím going to hand him the ball as long as
weíre gaining yards running the ball."
But as Rams defensive lineman Tyoka Jackson observed, Seattle quarterback Matt
Hasselbeck was struggling a bit, and it made sense for the Seahawks to balance
out their offense. "Theyíre riding on his back, and thatís smart ó heís a heck
of a player," Jackson said of Alexander. "Theyíre trying to be balanced, and as
good as Hasselbeck is, heís still a young quarterback."
"Yeah, our running game helps the quarterback, thereís no question about that,"
he said. "The other thing, we considered some things, and we had a volume of
offense that I think was unmanageable."
Alexander put it like this: The pressure was on Holmgren to make the perfect
play calls and for Hasselbeck to make the perfect throws. He provides balance.
And like most running backs, the more carries Alexander gets, the happier he
is. "Do I want it? Of course," he said, laughing. "It makes things go very easy
for me, to set things up with running the ball. I donít have to shoot for a big
play every time I tough it. Itís just to get our running game going because I
know Iíll get it again."
Holmgren said the biggest difference between Alexander this season Alexander in
previous seasons is his consistency. Holmgren called him a natural runner,
someone whoís durable and hard to tackle.
"I think any player at any position, all of a sudden in this league, comes to
the point where he says, "OK, Iím playing at this level, I want to play at the
next one. What do I have to do to do better?í
"And a lot of that comes with offseason training, or how he practices ... not
just Shaun, Iím talking about anybody. It just happens, theyíre all pretty
young guys still ó fourth year, youíre still a pup in this business. Heís
having a very, very consistently good year for us."
One thing that has paid off for Alexander this season is, as Holmgren
suspected, his offseason training. At a golf outing for his foundation in
Alabama over the summer, he met some friends and associates of Herschel Walker,
and the talk turned to Walkerís legendary sit-up and push-up regimens.
Convinced that he needed something else in addition to a sprint coach and a
weights coach, Alexander began doing sets of sit-ups and push-ups, 100 a time
at a minimum. He started early ó "You donít even get breakfast. You want eggs?
Nah, you want push-ups" ó and did as many as eight sets during the day, He saw
"It was just amazing how when we started, and then going through the whole
summer, how much stronger I felt on the inside," Alexander said. "All core
work. ... I can really tell in these games ó it feels like Iím running through
things, breaking a lot more tackles, staying stronger through the games. I
think itís from that."
Alexanderís breakout season may be perfectly timed; he will be a free agent
after this season, and he will probably receive intense interest from teams
looking for a feature back. And yes, he admits, the chance to get more
recognition is an attractive one.
"When youíre up in the Northwest, youíre almost like a kept secret," Alexander
said. "Itís bittersweet, though. At times you wish you were the guy on ESPN and
everyoneís talking about, but at the same time, itís really cool to be flying
up under the radar where people donít know youíre that good, or theyíre just
(saying), ĎDid he have a couple of good games?í because they donít know about
your whole career, how itís been going pretty well.
"I take it on both sides. For me, I donít really worry about trying to get the
national praise. My biggest thing is the Super Bowl. I think when you win Super
Bowls, you get whatever kind of praise you want."