Seahawks release former league MVP Alexander

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- From MVP to vilified to unemployed in a little more than two years.

Shaun Alexander's free fall in Seattle was completed Tuesday when the Seahawks cut the running back who led them to their only Super Bowl appearance in 2006 and was rewarded soon after with a $62 million contract.

For Alexander, the two seasons since he received that eight-year deal have been filled with injuries, ineffectiveness and incessant boos.

"Yeah, it's sad, really," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said while announcing the defending four-time NFC West champions released Alexander unconditionally, hours after the running back passed a physical.

Ruskell could've been talking about the Seattle fan's relationship with the always-smiling star, who earned a reputation for being a bit passive.

The 30-year-old Alexander went to three Pro Bowls, but was never the most beloved player on the Seahawks.

Sure, everyone loved Alexander during the 2005 season, when he set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns and a franchise mark of 1,880 yards rushing while leading the Seahawks to the Super Bowl and becoming the franchise's first MVP.

The Seahawks showed how fond they were of Alexander, giving him a $62 million, eight-year contract with $15.1 million guaranteed that agent Jim Steiner then said was the largest for a running back in league history.

Alexander was scheduled to earn $4,475,000 this season on a deal that many around the league questioned at the time it was signed because 30 is an age at which NFL running backs often become shadows of their former great selves.

"The contract was set up that you wanted to get at least three years," Ruskell said. "So we didn't get there. That part is disappointing.

"I thought because Shaun had not been injured through his career, playing the odds I said ... 'If you are going to bet on a guy, bet on a guy who's not been hurt or had that propensity.' That was the case with Shaun."

But then he severely bruised his left foot while getting tackled in 2006 opener. He kept playing on it and soon broke it, the first major injury of his football career, and missed six games. Last season, he broke his left wrist in Week 1. In November, he missed three games with a sprained left knee.

The cutback lanes he used to create began closing on him faster than he could run. His trademark hesitation, which used to deftly set up blocks, suddenly just invited defenders to swarm him -- and his home fans to boo. Coach Mike Holmgren said the injuries and having nowhere to run were the reasons for Alexander's his steep decline.

Even through his inglorious end in Seattle, Alexander kept the appearance that all was just fine -- that this, too, didn't matter much in the larger context of his life.

"I want to thank the Seahawks and Holmgren for all they have done for me and my family over the years," Alexander said. "I have nothing but respect and affection for the Seahawks staff, my teammates and the organization. I wish them the best."

Then he fawned over the same fans who last season cheered as he jogged off the home field while getting replaced.

"I especially want to thank the Seahawks fans," he said. "You made me feel proud every time I stepped on the field as a member of the Seahawks. I look forward to hopefully returning to Qwest Field one day to play against the Seahawks.

"We have made far too many wonderful friends to say goodbye. My family will remain in the Seattle area, and when my days in the NFL do eventually come to an end, I plan to retire here. Our hearts are woven into the fabric of this community, we are blessed to be part of it, and we enjoy contributing to it in every way we can."

"Thank you Seattle."

Alexander called Ruskell constantly this offseason to discuss his status once the Seahawks signed free agent running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett -- the offseason moves that essentially sealed Alexander's Seattle fate.

He also called constantly to discuss doctors' reports on his surgically repaired left wrist from January, so Alexander and the team could stay up to date.

"It's been unique, really," Ruskell said, chuckling. "Every step of the way we've kept him informed ... we've been lockstep with Shaun all along."

Now, for the first time since they drafted him out of Alabama 19th overall in 2000, the Seahawks and Alexander going separate ways.

"It shows you how tough this game is, how ever-changing it is, how you can't play forever," Ruskell said. "You just can't do it."

Even though his last two seasons have been his worst, Alexander said he is not retiring.

"I will be playing for another NFL team this fall, and doing everything I can to contribute," said Alexander, who ran for 716 yards in 13 games last season -- his lowest total as a full-time starter.

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