KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -If this is not the end of the Shaun Alexander era in Seattle, it at least may be time for a new, sharing phase.
Ever since Ricky Watters arrived to be the Seahawks' featured back in 1998, the Seahawks have based their running game primarily upon one player, with only situational substitutions or injury fill-ins.
Times are changing.
Alexander was out of another practice Wednesday with the sprained knee that caused him to miss the first game of his stalled season Monday night. The 2005 league MVP was in a blue sweat suit standing next to running backs coach Stump Mitchell and watching backup Maurice Morris with the starting offense, as the Seahawks (5-4) prepared for Sunday's home game against Chicago (4-5).
The Seahawks hope Alexander can practice Friday. When he tried to test the left knee Saturday before Monday's victory over the 49ers, it did not go well.
``I think it would be really unfair of me to put Shaun back on the field if he wasn't right,'' coach Mike Holmgren said. ``That's the tough thing. A player will tell you, 'I can play.' He wants to play. He doesn't like to watch.''
For now, an offense with an increased emphasis on Matt Hasselbeck's passing in lieu of an ineffective running game is moving on - with Morris. He gained 89 yards on 28 carries against San Francisco and gave the previously lifeless rushing offense a pulse.
Plus, the six-year backup to Alexander is a better receiver and better pass blocker, especially now that Alexander will be wearing that cast over his broken left wrist for the rest of this season.
Holmgren doesn't know exactly how he will proceed once Alexander is healthy enough to return.
``We're not quite there yet,'' Holmgren said. ``I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do that yet.
``I thought Mo had a good game the other night. More effective? Less effective (than Alexander has been)? I wouldn't say that, necessarily. I think when Shaun's healthy, Shaun's going to be back in playing.
``But I think Mo certainly deserves the chance to play. What I have to figure out is probably a way to use both of them.''
The last time Alexander shared a job, it didn't go well. So it didn't last long.
Watters came back after missing nine games of the 2001 season to share the running load with Alexander in Week 13. Watters got just six carries for 23 yards. Alexander gained 28 yards on 12 carries. Seattle lost 20-7 at Denver.
The following week at Dallas, Watters was back starting but broke his ankle. Alexander's been starting ever since.
Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said one answer to the current conundrum might be to give Alexander two series, then Morris the third and alternate in that pattern.
``That way the guy gets on the field,'' Haskell said. ``Because when you are upstairs and things are going good, you are like, 'Not yet. Not yet. Not yet.' Then finally he only has three plays in the first half.''
There are two problems with that idea.
Perhaps most important, Holmgren doesn't like it.
``I don't like to platoon guys or give guys series or different things like that, if I can help it. But I've got to see,'' Holmgren said. ``I've got to see if we keep building on what happened last week. We'll see.''
The other problem? Alexander. Before he left with a sprained knee in Cleveland Nov. 4, he had just 139 yards in four games. He has 492 in eight games this season, the past seven of which he's played with the cast over his left wrist. That's his lowest eight-game rushing total since he replaced Watters as the starter.
Alexander turned 30 in August. Since 2002, only 10 of the 93 players who have run for 1,000 or more yards in a season have been 30 or older.
Holmgren knows that. He also mentioned this is the first knee injury Alexander has had.
During his 2005 MVP season, Alexander said that from grade school through the NFL he'd never really been hurt, at least not enough to miss a game. Since then, he has had a concussion, a broken foot, a broken wrist, a sprained knee and a twisted ankle. He's missed the first seven regular-season games of his career.
``The running backs, those are the tough guys. They get banged around pretty good,'' Holmgren said. ``And over time, it's a little like a prize fighter: so many body blows and pretty soon it has to have an effect on you.
``That idea of a running back past 30, there are numbers to go with that. That's real.''
But when asked if he felt Alexander falls into that category of declining, aged running backs, Holmgren said, ``I am not ready to answer that right now.
``All I know is that he is recovering from his knee injury .... He is one of those guys though who is a special guy physically.''

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