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Originally published April 23, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 23, 2008 at 12:02 AM

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Seahawks say goodbye to Shaun Alexander

Anticipation of Shaun Alexander's release began in the first week of March, when the Seahawks signed two new running backs. Still, the conclusion to...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Shaun Alexander bio

Height: 5 feet 11

Weight: 228 pounds

Number: 37

Age: 30 (born Aug. 30, 1977)

NFL seasons: 8

College:Alabama

Drafted: 19th overall selection in 2000 by Seattle.

Career highlights: Owns or shares at least 37 franchise records. Seahawks career leader in rushing yards (9,429), attempts (2,176), total TDs (112) and 100-yard rushing games (37). His 100 rushing TDs is tied for 7th in NFL history. Three-time Pro Bowl pick (2003-05). His 2005 MVP season, when he won NFL rushing title with 1,880 yards and set league record with 28 TDs (since broken), led Seattle to the Super Bowl. First NFL player with 15 or more TDs in five consecutive years.

KIRKLAND — Anticipation of Shaun Alexander's release began in the first week of March, when the Seahawks signed two new running backs.

Still, the conclusion to Alexander's run with the Seahawks arrived abruptly Tuesday.

A doctor's appointment to check on his wrist, a couple of phone calls to make sure he was cleared, and by the end of the afternoon, the Seahawks announced the leading rusher in franchise history was gone, given his unconditional release.

"One of the toughest decisions I'll ever have to make," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said.

Alexander arrived in Seattle in 2000 as a first-round pick to back up Ricky Watters. By 2003 he had helped turn the Seahawks into a perennial playoff team. He averaged 1,500 yards rushing and 19.6 total touchdowns his first five seasons as Seattle's starting running back. In 2005, Alexander set a league touchdown record of 28 (since broken) and became the first Seahawk to be named a league MVP.

The addition of free-agent running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett in March pointed to a new direction for the Seahawks' running game. Tuesday's announcement made the change official.

"I started my NFL career in Seattle and hoped I could remain with the team through the rest of my days as a player," Alexander said in a statement released after the announcement. "That said, things change."

Alexander, 30, signed an eight-year, $62 million contract in 2006 the month he was to become a free agent. The Seahawks' expectation was for three, maybe four seasons before it would be restructured. Instead, he's gone after his rushing total and yards per carry declined in successive seasons.

"You have to be able to make these tough decisions," Ruskell said. "And we wanted to change the dynamic of the running game, top to bottom."

Seattle signed Mike Wahle, a guard with Carolina last season. The Seahawks hired Mike Solari to replace Bill Laveroni as offensive-line coach and now have overhauled the backfield.

Alexander was scheduled to earn a base salary of $4.5 million next season. The Seahawks will not have to pay him that, but Alexander will continue to count against the salary cap. The team must still account for $6.9 million, which is three-fifths of the $11.5 million signing bonus Alexander received. The team can choose to have that count in one lump sum in 2008 or divide it over 2008 and 2009.

Alexander plans to play for another team next season.

"I am healthy, energized and looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my NFL career," the statement said.

Alexander was at times a polarizing player among Seahawks fans. In 2004, he drew criticism for complaining he was "stabbed in the back" when he finished 1 yard short of the league's rushing title. The next season, he was at the forefront of the Seahawks' run to the Super Bowl. He was the most productive back in franchise history, yet some complained he went down too easily.

Alexander will turn 31 before next season begins, and he showed signs of still being an elite back at the end of the 2006 season when he gained 201 yards on a snowy Monday night against Green Bay. He rushed for 140 yards against a stout Chargers defense in December and ran for 108 yards against the Bears in a playoff loss in January.

Injuries slowed him, though. He never missed a game because of injury his first six seasons in the NFL. He sat out six games with a cracked foot in 2006 and missed three games last season recovering from a sprained knee. He also played last year with a cracked bone in his left wrist, which required offseason surgery.

He had screws placed in the wrist to help it heal and had been wearing a splint. Alexander was evaluated Tuesday and cleared to resume playing football. That clearance was followed by Alexander's release.

"We wanted to make sure we were going to be releasing a healthy running back," Ruskell said.

The Seahawks have stayed in touch with Alexander since the season ended, informing him before free agency that the team would be looking at free-agent running backs.

"We told Shaun up front, 'This is a possibility,' " Ruskell said.

Alexander gained 9,429 yards in eight seasons, a franchise record. Chris Warren is No. 2 with 6,706. Alexander's 112 career touchdowns ranks No. 14 in NFL history, and it's no coincidence that the most productive season of his career occurred during the franchise's best year.

"I don't think we have that Super Bowl run if it's not for Shaun," Ruskell said.

Alexander said he and his family will continue to make their home here. After his career concludes, he is certain to be inducted into the Seahawks' "Ring of Honor."

"I'm hoping I'm there to do that," Ruskell said of that induction. "I'm hoping when he does retire, he retires a Seahawk. I hope all that happens. I told Shaun that.

"This isn't personal, this is part of the business."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Alexander's regular-season statistics
Rushing and receiving:
Year Team G Att Yds Avg TD Lg Rec Yds Lg TD
2007 Seattle 13 207 716 3.5 4 25 14 76 18 1
2006 Seattle 10 252 896 3.6 7 33t 12 48 14 0
2005 Seattle 16 370 1,880 5.1 27 88t 15 78 9 1
2004 Seattle 16 353 1,696 4.8 16 44 23 170 24 4
2003 Seattle 16 326 1,435 4.4 14 55 42 295 22 2
2002 Seattle 16 295 1,175 4.0 16 58 59 460 80t 2
2001 Seattle 16 309 1,318 4.3 14 88t 44 343 28t 2
2000 Seattle 16 64 313 4.9 2 50 5 41 18 0
Totals 119 2,176 9,429 4.3 100 88t 214 1,511 80 12
Source: NFL.com
Alexander's postseason statistics
Rushing and receiving:
Year Team G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
2007 Seattle 2 24 66 2.8 1 4 12 3.0 0
2006 Seattle 2 50 177 3.5 2 1 12 12.0 0
2005 Seattle 3 60 236 3.9 2 3 2 0.7 0
2004 Seattle 1 15 40 2.7 0 1 25 25.0 0
2003 Seattle 1 20 45 2.3 3 1 1 1.0 0
Totals 9 169 564 3.3 8 10 52 5.2 0
Source: Associated Press

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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