Alexander to get back on practice field, may play Sunday

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- The more Shaun Alexander ran, the more he got razzed.

Seahawks' teammates teased him throughout his return to practice Wednesday for having spry legs. Too spry entering December of an NFL season.

"Everyone kept saying, 'Man, it looked like you're fresh.' They've been giving me a lot of stuff about that, but that's a good thing," Alexander said after getting most of the running back plays with an offense that hasn't had him since he sprained his left knee Nov. 4 in a loss at Cleveland.

"This is the best I've felt probably since the second week of the season."

So does all fresh mean all healed?

"Uh, no," the 2005 league MVP deadpanned. "This is football. Nothing's healed. But it's definitely something I can play with."

Alexander said he will play Sunday when the Seahawks (7-4), who have won all three games Alexander has missed, take their two-game lead in the NFC West to Philadelphia (5-6). Coach Mike Holmgren was less definitive.

"We have our fingers crossed, as he does," Holmgren said before practice, wary of how sore Alexander might be Thursday.

Boosting Alexander's chances of playing: Maurice Morris' sore ankle. Morris, who has averaged 85 yards rushing per game in three starts for Alexander, hurt his left ankle late in last weekend's win at St. Louis when Will Witherspoon pulled him down by his face mask.

Morris got only a few snaps in practice Wednesday, though he looked nimble rushing off to a post-practice meeting instead of commenting. Holmgren said Morris may not practice much before Sunday.

Asked whether Morris or Alexander, or both, will play against the Eagles, Holmgren said: "That's a good one. Anything I say probably won't happen. So we'll just let it happen ... and see how that goes."

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell, a former runner with the old St. Louis Cardinals, outlined the difference in the styles of Seattle's two backs. Alexander's habit of hesitating to wait on holes and cutbacks has drawn boos in Seattle this season.

"Mo has some elusiveness," Mitchell said. "Shaun has a little more creativity -- sometimes good, sometimes bad. You have to take the bitter with the sweet."

Holmgren said he met with Alexander on Tuesday and explained that upon his return, Morris will continue to play. Alexander said he was fine with that altered arrangement, the first time since Alexander became Seattle's lead runner in 2001 that he hasn't been the sole, featured back in the offense.

"Mo and I have a great relationship, just like when I was the backup for Ricky (Watters)," Alexander said of Morris, his backup for six seasons. "We let the coaches decide. We just play. I'm not the guy who holds back the secret tidbits. Mo did a lot of great things when I was gone, and he's going to continue to do them.

"Whatever it takes for us to keep on winning."

That would include a continued emphasis on Matt Hasselbeck's passing over a stalled running game.

Alexander said he is fine with that, too, even though the cast he will wear the rest of the season makes him a liability to pass block or catch the ball in the passing game.

"You know what? We're 3-0 the past three games," he said. "Whatever we are doing is working.

"I love it. I think we needed to do it. ... I'm definitely all for it."

The hard time he got from teammates Wednesday sure beats the harder times Alexander has experienced the last two seasons.

After signing a $62 million, eight-year contract with $15.1 million guaranteed before the 2006 season, Alexander missed six games and played through two others with a broken foot. He's played seven games this season with a cast on a broken left wrist before this latest three-week hiatus.

He and the Seahawks would like to think injuries are why he failed to gain 1,000 yards last season, why this season he has just 492 yards in eight games. Both are his worst marks since he took Watters' job as Seattle's lead runner in 2001. He has two touchdowns this season, the same Morris has had in the last three games.

Many believe turning 30 in August is the reason for Alexander's dwindling production, which had made him almost forgotten in Seattle until he showed up Wednesday.

"Oh, man, today was exciting," he said. "I'm blessed that I got to have Christmas earlier than everybody else."

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck also practiced despite a sore quadriceps. He didn't practice until Friday last week because of sore ribs, then rallied the Seahawks to 17 points in the second half Sunday to beat the Rams.

Lofa Tatupu watched practice with an electrical stimulation machine taped to his sore ribs. Holmgren said his Pro Bowl middle linebacker may not practice all week but will likely play against the Eagles.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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