By CLARE FARNSWORTH
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER

KIRKLAND -- Wearing a "Division Champion" hat, a Shaun Alexander Foundation T-shirt and his ever-present grin, the Seahawks' Pro Bowl running back didn't look, sound or act like someone who had been stabbed in the back.

But it was his caustic comments rooted in frustration after the team's division-clinching victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday that prompted Alexander to hold a news conference yesterday -- overshadowing what should have been a feel-good day for a team that struggled but still found a way to win the NFC West title.


Grant M. Haller / P-I
Shaun Alexander's news conference yesterday attracted some 35 members of the news media to Seahawks headquarters. "It got the best of me and I definitely blurted out stuff I shouldn't have said," he said.
"I think the biggest thing in the world is how apologetic I am to this whole situation -- how me and going after a record, and my feelings about a record, could even take any excitement, any of the light away from winning a championship," Alexander said.

That is, however, exactly what has happened after Alexander finished the season with 1,696 rushing yards, one fewer than the New York Jets' Curtis Martin.

It was Alexander's contention after the game that coach Mike Holmgren calling a quarterback sneak by Matt Hasselbeck from the Atlanta 1-yard line for what proved to be the game-winning score cost him a chance to be the first Seahawk to lead the league in rushing.

"Are you kidding me? You know the play," Alexander said after the game. "We all know what it was. Stabbed in the back."

It was the second of his three references to being stabbed in the back in a short, eruptive exchange with only a few reporters before the team's public relations staff stepped in. Alexander later talked to more reporters, but did not repeat the inflammatory phrase.

"It got the best of me and I definitely blurted out stuff I shouldn't have said," Alexander said yesterday. Of his stabbed in the back analogy, he added, "That was just a little too extreme. That's just an extreme statement."

He also quashed any thoughts that Holmgren had deliberately called the quarterback sneak to deprive him of the rushing title.



"He couldn't have done it on purpose," Alexander said. "He's not like that."

Sources confirmed yesterday that Alexander does not have incentive clauses in the contract he signed as a rookie in 2000 that cost him a bonus for failing to lead the league in rushing. But he is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent March 2, and was asked if Sunday's frustration would be a factor in him signing elsewhere.

"Everyone knows I love this city," he said. "No matter how much I joke with coach Holmgren, our feelings are the same. We came in to shake this city up and win a Super Bowl."

Alexander had not talked to Holmgren since his postgame comments, and said it wouldn't happen until today -- when the players return from their day off to begin preparing for Saturday's playoff game against the St. Louis Rams at Qwest Field.

"Everybody knows, we have that love-love affair," Alexander said. "We'll fight with each other, scrape with each other. But I know without a doubt he loves me and he knows I love him."

But that warm-and-fuzzy relationship has had its abrasive moments.

Alexander has not been pleased that he is replaced by backup Maurice Morris in the Seahawks' spread formation used on obvious passing downs.

He also has been perplexed that there have been games where he has run the Seahawks into the red zone, only to have Holmgren decide to pass once inside the opponents' 20-yard line.

Holmgren, meanwhile, has been frustrated by Alexander's glide-and-slide running style that sometimes results in losing yards.

Alexander said he planned to apologize to running backs coach Stump Mitchell as soon as he left the news conference.

"Stump's like always in the middle of everything," Alexander said. "In this case, if I say something because I'm mad at coach Holmgren, then Stump's the one who has to go and smooth it out."

But Alexander also said there is no need to do the same with his teammates.

"They know me, I'm all about winning," he said. "I'm like, 'Hey, everybody win, then check your stats.' "

That the focus was on him, and his comment, rather than the team achieving its goal caught Alexander by surprise.

"I was amazed," he said. "There were 100,000 great things that this game did for us, and we focused on the one comment.

"But," he added with a laugh, "it is a great story. I'm sure people read it."

Still, the Seahawks won the NFC West title and are hosting a first-round playoff game, while Alexander set club records for rushing yards, touchdowns (20) and carries (353).

"By no means at all am I disappointed in this year," he said.

Which is why he decided to meet the press.

"I didn't want to leave any room for anybody on our team, anyone in our office, anyone that's involved with the Seahawks, I didn't want anything to get in the way of practice (today) and through the rest of this week," he said. "Because I know what happens if we beat the Rams."

P-I reporter Clare Farnsworth can be reached at 206-448-8016 or clarefarnsworth@seattlepi.com