By: BARRY WILNER, AP Football Writer
(AP) Shaun Alexander set an NFL record for touchdowns, led the league in rushing and ran away with The Associated Press Most Valuable Player award Thursday.
And with free agency on the horizon, the Seattle running back could parlay his sensational year into unprecedented riches.
Alexander spearheaded the Seahawks’ rise to the best record in the NFL, including a victory over the league’s other 14-2 team, the Colts. It was the most productive season in Seahawks history, one in which Alexander scored 28 touchdowns and rushed for 1,880 yards.
That earned him 19 votes from a nationwide panel of 50 sports writers and broadcasters who cover the NFL. He ended the two-year reign of Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning, who received 13 votes.
“I think that is a team goal,” Alexander said of winning the award. “The way I always looked at MVPs was it was a player that did really, really good on a really, really good team. That is why I am even more excited about this year, because I have put together some great numbers, but we have a great team.”
Those great numbers included 11 games rushing for 100 yards or more, topped by 173 against Arizona on Nov. 6. He scored 27 TDs on the ground and one as a receiver to break Priest Holmes’ seasonal record by one.
His lowest output was in a Monday night game in Philadelphia, a 42-0 romp in which he played only the first half and had 49 yards in the snow.
Alexander became the only player in NFL history with at least 15 TDs in five straight seasons and the fourth with consecutive 20-touchdown years. He became Seattle’s career rushing leader this season.
“It’s just like all the things — the rushing title, the MVP, all those things — it’s exciting to talk about,” said the sixth-year pro out of Alabama. “But I don’t think it would mean that much until after I retire, because then it would actually hit me what it means.
“Right now, we’re on this ride and it’s just kind of one of those things; everything is kind of numb to us. It’s all exciting. We’re already in the second round of the playoffs, we’ve just got a bunch of cool things that we are really not used to.”
Seattle would like to get used to having Alexander in the backfield. But he could leave in the offseason.
He was designated the Seahawks’ franchise player before this season and accepted the team’s one-year, $6.323 million offer — with a proviso. The team agreed not to use the same franchise tag on him in 2006.
So either the Seahawks come up with a huge financial package, or the MVP could be scoring touchdowns and gaining all those yards elsewhere next season.
“It is a business,” he said. “The Seahawks have to make their own decisions. I am going to be happy for whatever they do.”
Alexander is the first Seahawk to win the award. He also is the first running back voted MVP since Marshall Faulk in 2000.
Trailing Manning in the balloting were New England quarterback Tom Brady with 10 votes, New York Giants running back Tiki Barber with six and Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer with two.