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Despite concussion, Alexander could play next week

SEATTLE -- After Shaun Alexander told enough people he felt
fine, all eventually became right with the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL MVP missed the last three-plus quarters of the Seahawks'
20-10 playoff win over the Washington Redskins on Saturday after
sustaining a concussion. For a while, his injury was the only
downer to soaring Seattle winning its first playoff game since
1984.

After the game, coach Mike Holmgren said, "I think he's going
to be fine" for next Sunday's NFC championship game.

"I think if I had showed him a picture of a truck, he would
have said it was a truck -- and not a butterfly," Holmgren said,
adding doctors will run more tests on Alexander in the coming days.

Alexander didn't talk publicly after the game. But on his way
off the field at halftime, Alexander had a brief chat with team
president Tim Ruskell. That ended with both men nodding their heads
assuredly. Seconds later, with his team coat over his shoulder pads
and his hood over his head, he flashed an "OK" sign to fans
before he entered the tunnel to the locker room.

He also left the field smiling and pumping his fists after the
win. Inside the locker room, he kept on smiling and looked exactly
as he has after each game of his 1,880-yard season.

But the Seahawks weren't smiling when Alexander was hit in the
side of the head as he was falling during a 1-yard loss. Washington
defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin immediately signaled to the
Seattle sideline for medical attention for Alexander, who was face
down on the turf while propped up on both knees. Griffin made the
initial hit into Alexander's legs that brought down the league
rushing champion.

"I mean, you always take a deep breath when the MVP of the
league goes down," said 13-year veteran fullback Mack Strong,
Alexander's personal protector for the last six seasons.

After a few hushed moments inside the otherwise roaring stadium,
Alexander walked to the sideline. He spent the next series sitting
on the bench and occasionally moving his head around while trainers
talked to him. A series after that, he looked less likely to
return. Alexander, still seated, wore a Seahawks coat with the hood
pulled up over his head. At the time, the Seahawks announced his
return was questionable.

He had 9 yards on six carries when he left. Maurice Morris
replaced him and had 12 yards on his first six carries and finished
with 49 yards on 18 carries.

It was hardly the day Alexander anticipated, after carrying
Seattle the entire year while setting an NFL single-season record
for touchdowns with 28. But he put on his best face and became the
most accomplished cheerleader in the NFL.

When his team was on offense, Alexander stood near Holmgren, his
effervescent smile as steady as the daylong rain. By then, a blue
team skull cap replaced the hood on his head.

He was also a coat valet for Morris when the backup would come
to the sideline.

"Yeah. And he was making sure my hands stayed dry," Morris
said, marveling at the personal service.

After Matt Hasselbeck's 6-yard touchdown run in the third
quarter gave the Seahawks a 14-3 lead, Alexander marched out to the
numbers on the field to hug his quarterback. During timeouts, he
poked his head into conferences between Hasselbeck and Holmgren.

Seattle had another injury to a starter, left cornerback Andre
Dyson. He left in the second quarter with a right ankle injury.
Jordan Babineaux took Dyson's place until 13:10 was left in the
game. One play later, a Mark Brunell pass skipped off Dyson's
helmet in the end zone and into Santana Moss' hands for a
touchdown. That cut Seattle's lead to 17-10.