Shaun Alexander's recent career trajectory has resembled a bungee jump: Straight down.
RENTON, Wash. — Shaun Alexander's recent career trajectory has resembled a bungee jump: Straight down.
In just three years, the Seahawks' former franchise running back went from MVP to "Where is he?"
Perhaps the most accomplished third stringer in the NFL, Alexander hopes to make the most of any opportunity when he returns to Seattle with the Washington Redskins on Sunday.
After all, a bungee jump does have a little upward bounce at the back end.
"When you are 'The Man,' you're 'The Man.' And when you're not, you're not," Alexander said with his familiar chuckle Wednesday during a phone interview from Redskins Park in Ashburn, Va.
Once on top of the league as a cover boy for a best-selling NFL video game, Alexander is just glad to have a job on a winning team with a chance at a Super Bowl title. The former Seahawks star says that's the only jewel missing from a career that began when Seattle drafted him 19th overall out of Alabama in 2000.
In Washington, he has 11 carries for 24 yards in four games. He's far behind the dynamic Clinton Portis, the Redskins' indestructible 1,000-yard rusher.
The only reason former Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn signed Alexander last month was because backup Ladell Betts was hurt. Alexander is familiar with Zorn's offense, which has roots in the one Alexander ran in while rewriting Seattle's record book for coach Mike Holmgren.
Seattle basically booed him out of town last season. He was its civic lightning rod, the man blamed for everything from endless third-down failures to the endless winter rain.
Sunday, Alexander returns humbled but seemingly at peace. The Seahawks' all-time rusher (9,429 yards) and touchdown scorer (112) wonders if anyone will even notice him. No. 37 will be buried deep on the Redskins' sideline inside a stadium where he was once loved, then scorned.
"Well, I mean, I'm the third running back. I mean, what are we talking about here?" Alexander said, laughing again. "I think it won't even be a topic.
"There's not like a taunting thing that can go on. And there's not a jovial thing that can go on. I'm just a part of the system out here. I was an impact to the system in Seattle."
Oh, he's still a topic in the Pacific Northwest. He was perhaps the most polarizing sports figure in Seattle sports history — far more than the beloved Ken Griffey Jr., Gary Payton or Alex Rodriguez while they were in town.
Two seasons after Alexander set the league record with 28 touchdowns and the franchise mark with 1,880 yards rushing to lead Seattle to its only Super Bowl, fans booed the injured, fading runner each time he touched the ball during home games in 2007.
Many cheered wildly when Holmgren would replace him before third downs. Alexander had a cast on his broken wrist and couldn't catch or block.
"The squeaky wheel always gets the oil," Alexander said. "We had what, 60,000 fans? If 5,000 of them are disgruntled, you are going to hear it. It sounds like it's way worse than it is. My fan mail was really, really crazy high with, 'We love you! We are embarrassed as Seahawks fans for anybody booing you.' What do you do?
"I don't think anybody can make everybody happy."
Those that boo don't know or care — or perhaps ignore — that Alexander still has a foundation based in Seattle mentoring young men toward good life choices. He also gave his time and money to the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Puget Sound, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and even the America's Foundation for Chess.
Fans seem to forget he never got in trouble off the field and produced franchise records for most of this decade.
In Washington, he's fine with his current role — not thrilled, but fine.
"I've always been a person that's been real upfront with the situation and what's going on. I don't go into the game thinking, 'Oh, man! I do this one thing and I'm going to be the guy that gets 30 carries!' No, that's not reality," he said. "Hoping it will happen again one day. But Clinton is playing well. You've got to ride that horse so you can take it as far as it can go."
So no, Alexander says he doesn't have revenge on his mind after Seattle unceremoniously cut him last spring.
"Uhhh ... I'm the third-stringer. I'm actually surprised that you asked me to do this interview," Alexander said. "I think that reality has to set it. That's not my role on this team. Now, do I want it to be more? Of course. ... But that's the role on this team right now.