T.O. vs. S.A.

After sitting through oft-maligned wide receiver Terrell Owens' recent press conference in which he apologized to everyone that he has alienated over the past several months leading up to his dismissal from the Philadelphia Eagles, I couldn't help but laugh at the misfortune of the Eagles organization.

As a fan of another team, this outcome made me ecstatic because the Eagles have lost one of the best talents and playmakers in the NFL, making them much more vulnerable after their Super Bowl run just a year ago. But it makes me twice as happy that it comes at the cost of the entire year for Owens, the poster child for the ego-driven, self-centered NFL player that seems to be glamorized over all else in the league.

Through the entire year, Owens has continually reaffirmed his status as the NFL’s (and quite possibly all of sports’) most self-centered figure, starting before mini-camps with his demands for a new contract after only playing one year under his current deal, his subsequent mini-camp holdouts, and the soap opera that followed him throughout the entire first half of the 2005 NFL season. Owens could be considered the most hated player in sports, mostly because he epitomizes the stereotypical player that a general fan can’t understand or relate to. Owens is seen as the guy that isn’t happy making 6 million a year playing a game, instead he wants $8 million, and the fan that can barely squeak out $200 a week to go watch the game simply can not understand this. To see him get knocked down a peg and humbled by his own organization is a vindication to the average Joe.

So how do the Seattle Seahawks fit into this drama? What could T.O’s drama in Philly have to do with the 6 – 2 Seahawks, just coming off their 4th win in a row? The answer is the anti-Terrell Owens, Seahawks running back Shaun Alexander.

Alexander is currently playing with a one-year deal signed prior to training camp after the team agreed to pull the franchise tag from him and not place it on him again next year, giving him the opportunity to become an unrestricted free agent. Alexander has stated publicly that he wants to stay with the team and sign a long-term deal, keeping him in Seattle for the rest of his career, but the Seahawks have kept their intentions close to their vests. Knowing that NFL running backs are generally easier to replace than any other skill position, and knowing that the “shelf life” of the average running back is only a few years, the Seahawks have seemed to want to avoid tying up too much of their precious salary cap into the running back position.

But the time has come to get past all of that and pay Shaun Alexander.

From a purely statistical standpoint, Alexander is dominating the NFL this year, just as he dominated last year. He currently leads the league in rushing yards and is in the top of the league in touchdowns, carries, and game-breaking plays. He seems to have improved some of the components of his game that were lacking in the past, including his pass blocking and his ability to fight for extra yards after first contact. With the help of his dominating offensive line, he is tearing up the defenses he faces game after game. With only one more touchdown this year, he will be the first player in NFL history to score 15 or more touchdowns in 5 consecutive seasons. He is also currently on pace to break the single season touchdown record of 27 touchdowns scored by Chiefs RB Priest Holmes in 2003.

But more importantly than all of that, Shaun Alexander is everything that Terrell Owens is not. Through the past few years, Alexander was criticized as being a selfish player in the locker room, complaining about stats and touches behind closed doors until making a PR blunder last year when he told a reporter that he was “stabbed in the back” by Seahawk head coach Mike Holmgren after Holmgren decided to call a Quarterback Sneak to score a touchdown and win the game against the Atlanta Falcons (Alexander needed just 2 more yards to become the NFL’s leading rusher). Alexander later apologized for the outburst, but no such talk has come out of the Hawks camp this year. He seems to have learned from the mistakes of the past and bought into the new team first mentality that the Hawks have enveloped since new team President Tim Ruskell took over at the helm.

Alexander is proving that he is a dominant NFL player deserving to be paid at that level, but more importantly, he seems to have pushed aside his self-serving attitude of the past and taken hold of the team mentality with the rest of his peers. He is everything that T.O. isn’t, always gracious to his fans, never showing up another player on or off the field, and doing all of the small things that it takes to be a complete player. The fact that he is learning from the mistakes of the past by showing that his personal ambitions are no longer what he strives for is something to be commended and appreciated in today’s bleak T.O. filled sports landscape.

Shaun Alexander is well on his way to an NFL Hall of Fame career. He is single-handedly putting Seahawk football on the minds of all NFL fans more so than any other player before him (all respect to Steve Largent), and he is continuing to become a great ambassador on and off the field. After watching the embarrassment of the Eagles vs. Owens mess this week, I think the Seahawk front office needs to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Alexander is enshrined in Canton, Ohio as a Seahawk.

The time is now for a long-term deal for Shaun Alexander.

Mark Olsen writes frequently for Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback at seahawk94@comcast.net.

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