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Holmgren defends Alexander's running style

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Mike Holmgren hears the frustrations and complaints from Seahawks fans that Shaun Alexander isn't running hard enough.

He hears the criticism that the star running back has been too tentative, tiptoeing into the line while gaining just 93 yards rushing with an average of less than 3 yards per carry over the last two games.

Seattle's coach has been telling Alexander the same thing -- for eight years.

"Would I like him to hit the holes a little quicker, get it up in there? I've said that from Day One," Holmgren said Friday, the final full practice day for the Seahawks (3-2) before Sunday night's home game against New Orleans (0-4).

"He's known that for, how many years has he been here?" Holmgren said, chuckling. "But at the same time, his style has produced some wonderful things."

That includes five seasons with at least 1,175 yards rushing, with a team-record 1,880 yards in 2005 while winning league MVP and leading the Seahawks to their only Super Bowl. He scored a then-league record 28 touchdowns that season.

"It's like da-da-da (simulating hesitancy) -- and then all of a sudden he scores a touchdown and I am happy," Holmgren said.

Holmgren hasn't been happy much lately.

Alexander has just two touchdowns through five games, the last four of which he has played while wearing a cast over a cracked left wrist. Alexander said it took him weeks to regain his balance while running with the cast.

The injury comes after he missed six games last season with a broken foot. He finished with 896 yards in 10 regular-season games, the first time since he became Seattle's featured back in 2001 that he failed to reach 1,000 yards.

He is running behind three new offensive linemen since that wondrous season two years ago. His Pro Bowl blocking back, Mack Strong, had to retire this week because of a spinal cord condition.

Alexander turned 30 in August, and talk is getting louder that he is fading on the three-time defending NFC West champions.

"I just think that, for me, I've done a couple things that have been really exciting for this town," Alexander said, correctly placing his 378 yards rushing behind Edgerrin James, Derrick Ward and Adrian Peterson in the NFC.

"I think that because we've been so hot and so good and so dominant for all these years, people take something that is not as good and make it seem bad. We're not in a bad position at all. We're just used to being better."

Alexander often declares that his goals for each season are to break every rushing record that exists. When asked before this season about the new touchdown record belonging to LaDainian Tomlinson, who replaced Alexander as MVP last season but is also struggling right now in San Diego, Alexander said he would try to score 40 TDs in 2007.

"I think I'm doing OK for the league and I think I'm doing a little bit below OK for me," he said this week. "But then I think, with the situation that I'm in, it's not that bad."

Holmgren said he's fine with Alexander setting his goals high.

"(But) I wouldn't judge him by his goals," the coach said. "'Judging' is kind of a strong word, I think.

"People come to expect from great backs -- and he is a great back -- great things. And we've just been OK in the running game," Holmgren said. "That's always been a combination of the blockers and the ball carrier, and really how our passing game is going, the calls I make. It's a combination of things. It's never just one thing.

"So you have to be careful with that (criticism). He has great instincts. ... When the running game isn't going, though, there's a lot to pick at. Now it's our job to get it going so we can back people off just a little bit."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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