Alexander says he's had steady stream of calls for services
SEATTLE -- Shaun Alexander isn't bitter at being unemployed.
He isn't angry at the Seahawks, who in April dumped their career rushing and touchdowns leader. He doesn't feel betrayed that Seattle cut him just two seasons after he was the NFL's MVP, led it to its only Super Bowl appearance and then signed a $62 million contract.
Instead, the 31-year-old Alexander believes he will sign with one of a handful of teams that have provided a "constant flow of calls," including his hometown Cincinnati Bengals. His extended family in Northern Kentucky already is making plans.
"They want me to be Tres Siete," Alexander told The Associated Press by phone Friday, laughing at the twist on the name of the Bengals' star receiver formerly known as Chad Johnson now being officially recognized as Chad Ocho Cinco, to match his uniform No. 85 in Cincinnati.
Alexander grew up in Florence, Ky., across the Ohio River from the Bengals' waterfront stadium.
People still wear metallic blue Seahawks jerseys with Alexander's old No. 37 all around Seattle, where he still lives with his wife and three daughters. He's been working out at the University of Washington's weight room and indoor track and football field with speed coach Joe Gentry.
Surprised students are bumping into him and his familiar, beaming smile and saying, 'Hey, aren't you ... Shaun Alexander?' "
Two months ago, X-rays showed the cracked bone in his left foot that ruined his 2006 season and hampered him in '07 is finally fully meshed again. The broken left wrist he had to begin last season is fine, too.
"Man, I'm healthy and excited to play. And I think this year can be a big year for me if I get the opportunity. I can still play the game. I think I can help a team get to the Super Bowl," he said during a 40-minute talk in which he was as relentlessly upbeat as always, despite the fact he knew his friends on the Seahawks were leaving at the same hour for their season opener at Buffalo on Sunday.
He said he'd sign for the veteran minimum because "I've never played for money."
He said he's willing to share roles, that he doesn't need to carry the ball 30 times a game anymore. He just wants a Super Bowl title.
Seattle cut its career leader with 9,429 yards and 112 touchdowns days before the draft because it believes former backup Maurice Morris, former Cowboys starter Julius Jones and former Atlanta lead back T.J. Duckett will combine to be more dynamic and produce better this season than Alexander did in his last two years.
"I think that it won't be long before a team calls that says, 'Just go do what you do,' " he said.
Daunte Culpepper is a fellow 31-year-old former star who was unemployed before giving up waiting for that call. Culpepper retired Thursday.
Will Alexander retire, too, if a team doesn't offer him a job during the season?
"No," he said. "I haven't even thought about it like that. I've had enough conversations with teams to know this could be coming soon."
This is the first September since he was a grade schooler in Florence that Alexander has not been on a football field. He said he feels like a boy poised atop his bicycle, in his full football gear, helmet hanging off the handle bars, just waiting to be told which field to ride to.
"It's an exciting time for me. Right now, of course, this time of the year, I'm so excited to play," he said. "Driving around the city I hear the high school bands playing. Saw Alabama [his college team] play on TV the other night. Talked to some of the guys [on the Seahawks] and they were saying. 'Man, it's time.'
"I am ready. I'm in great shape. My workouts have been great. I'm ready to get back and help a team get to the Super Bowl."
This is the first time Alexander has spoken publicly since Seattle released him. His only response to that was a news release from his publicists. It thanked the team and its fans and said he and his family would remain part of the community in Seattle with his charitable foundation.
When reminded he's been in semi-hiding since he played in the Seahawks' playoff loss at Green Bay in January, Alexander laughed and said, "Crazy, huh?"
Alexander 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 which NFL running backs often become shadows of their former selves.
He said he hasn't had any tryouts since his release, because he hasn't needed any. Though Denver was rumored to be interested, he's visited only New Orleans and Cincinnati to look at game plans to explore a possible fit. He said his most recent call from a team came Monday.
He went to three Pro Bowls, but was never Seattle's most beloved player. Everyone loved Alexander during that Super Bowl season of 2005, when he set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns and a franchise mark of 1,880 yards rushing. After signing an eight-year contract with $15.1 million guaranteed, Alexander was doomed by the first major injuries of his career and an influx offensive line.
He called his release "just the business of football." And he praised coach Mike Holmgren -- "an offensive genius" -- for adjusting his famed passing offense to rely more on his running.
"After the smoke clears, I think people will say, 'You know what? That Shaun Alexander, he did all right when he was here," he said of Seattle. "I think there will be more smiles when the smoke clears."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press