KIRKLAND, Wash. -- The Seattle Seahawks released former MVP Shaun Alexander, just 26 months after he signed a $62 million contract as the franchise's cornerstone.
Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said Tuesday the team released Alexander unconditionally hours after the running back passed a physical. It's been a rapid fall for the 30-year-old. When he signed that mammoth deal, he was coming off an MVP season in 2005 and a Super Bowl appearance. Now he's looking for work, coming off of two unimpressive and injury filled seasons.
"Yeah, it's sad, really," Ruskell said after announcing a move that had been expected in Seattle for six weeks, since the signings of free agent running backs Julius Jones and T.J. Duckett. "He's been such an upstanding guy through my whole tenure here. I don't think we have that Super Bowl run if it wasn't for Shaun.
"It shows you have tough this game is, how ever-changing it is, how you can't play forever. ... You just can't do it."
Alexander will try again in 2008. The three-time Pro Bowl runner, whose last two seasons have been his worst, 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 just 716 yards in 13 games last season -- his lowest total since he replaced Ricky Watters as Seattle's lead back in 2001.
"I am healthy, energized and looking forward to beginning the next chapter of my NFL career," he said.
"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."
The Seahawks were waiting for Alexander's broken left wrist to heal before releasing him. He played the final 15 games of the regular season plus January's playoffs wearing a cast on that. Tuesday morning doctors declared the 19th overall draft choice in 2000 fully healthy to participate in minicamps this spring.
Hours later, he was unemployed and released from the eight-year contract he signed weeks after the 2006 Super Bowl, which agent Jim Steiner at the time said was the richest ever for an NFL running back.
That season Alexander set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns and a franchise record with 1,880 yards rushing. Then he severely bruised his left foot while getting tackled in the 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 in place - and his home fans to boo him. Coach Mike Holmgren said the injuries and Alexander simply having nowhere to run were the reasons for his steep decline.
He 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 running backs' have historically slipped -- sometimes dramatically.
"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."
Ruskell said the Seahawks haven't decided whether to make Alexander a June 1 cut, which could save them money against this season's salary cap, or have all $6.9 million of his prorated signing bonus count this year by dating the transaction before June 1. Ruskell said Seattle is in good enough of a position under the cap to make the move in either manner.
"While it really isn't a surprise, this news marks a major transition in my life," Alexander said. "I started my NFL career in Seattle and hoped I could remain with the team through the rest of my days as a player. "That said, things change."
For both sides.
"This is one of the toughest decisions I'll ever have to make," Ruskell said. "By the same token, you have to be able to make these tough decisions. We wanted to change the dynamic of the running game, from top to bottom."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press