SEATTLE, Jan. 5 -- Teammates look at Shaun Alexander and see two people.
There's the one who spent training camp this summer apologizing for having kept fellow Seattle Seahawks at a distance, creating the perception that the Pro Bowl running back was aloof or perhaps selfish. And there's the other Shaun Alexander, the one who complained publicly Sunday that he had been "stabbed in the back" by Mike Holmgren because the coach didn't call a play that would have let him win the NFL rushing title.
Seahawks' Shaun alexander apologized to teammates for his behavior. "I'm sorry for just treating you like a businessperson. From now on, I'm going to treat you like a brother."
(John Froschauer - AP)
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Seattle running back Shaun Alexander has a new attitude.
Coach Mike Shanahan appears to be on the hot seat in Denver again.
The NFC West Division champions might never understand the world of their most potent offensive weapon, might never get what makes Alexander at once selfish and sincere, engaging and enigmatic.
"Different" is how Alexander says his teammates view him.
One day after criticizing Holmgren, Alexander apologized publicly for his criticism of Holmgren as the team prepared for its first-round playoff game against the St. Louis Rams at home Saturday.
This was supposed to be the year that Alexander would cease to be a riddle to teammates. He was going to let them into his world, they would understand each other better and for the first time in two decades "Seahawks" and "Super Bowl expectations" were used in the same sentence.
Before the start of his fifth NFL season, Alexander took a vacation to Sandpoint, Idaho, with his best friend, backup fullback Heath Evans, and Alexander's wife, Valerie.
Sitting in front of a fire in a log cabin overlooking a lake, they challenged Alexander in a conversation that stretched for hours. They talked about perceptions and misconceptions and issues Alexander seemed to overlook.
"The thing about Shaun is that he hates to practice," Evans said. "But that's one thing the team looked at as such a 'me' attitude. He never really realized they viewed that as selfishness or all about me. He was humbled. And his relationship with teammates has been different ever since."
Different since the start of training camp in Cheney, Wash., when Alexander sought out quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and apologized to a teammate for the first time. When camp ended at the end of August Alexander had apologized to half his teammates, along with coaches and front-office types.
"I'm going to make an effort to let you know that, man, I'm sorry for just treating you like a businessperson," Alexander told them. "From now on, I'm going to treat you like a brother."
It was important that it happen now because Alexander is in the final year of his original contract with the Seahawks and an extension has not been discussed. Alexander maintains he would like to stay in Seattle, but he also has an idea of his value. That value is negotiable for other teams, but not the Seahawks because Alexander says he "holds family to a higher standard."
The Seahawks started 3-0 and led the St. Louis Rams by 17 midway through the fourth quarter in Week 4. Even when they collapsed and lost to their division rival, even when Alexander carried only 16 times in a loss to New England and 12 times in a loss to Arizona, he didn't complain or pout or revert to former practice habits.
As the season wore on, the two Shaun Alexanders seemed to merge. He publicly backed Holmgren and his pass-happy version of the West Coast offense, and the coach simplified his scheme midseason in order to take advantage of the most productive season of his running back's career.