By Scott M. Johnson
KIRKLAND – Dick Vermeil has been following college and professional football in some capacity since 1965, so he has seen his share of great running backs.
This Sunday, while coaching for the Kansas City Chiefs, Vermeil will get his first close-up view of another one. Vermeil already knows what to expect out of the Seahawks’ Shaun Alexander.
“We’ve played every good back in the league so far. All the best, we’ve played them all,” said Vermeil, whose Chiefs have faced Stephen Davis, Mike Anderson, Jerome Bettis and Curtis Martin, among others. “This kid is the most impressive in terms of patience and elusiveness. When there’s not much there, he sort of bounces and bounces, and you’ve got a five-yard gain.
” … If he was more patient than he is now, it would be delay of the game.”
Vermeil was at a loss when asked to compare Alexander to other running backs – both past and present. Alexander’s hunched-over running and his patience waiting for blockers make for a rather original style.
“He’s different,” Vermeil said. “I can remember watching Ricky Watters in your opener, with that high-knee action, the intensity that he intimidates a tackler.
“This kid doesn’t intimidate the tackler. He does a great job of timing how to make him miss. He has great vision, and the offensive linemen do a good job of getting a hat on a hat and staying with people. He just slithers through there, very patient. And then all the sudden there’s a spot, and he has that burst to take off there like he did against the Raiders.”
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren has pushed Alexander throughout his short NFL career, but he readily admits that his young star doesn’t need a lot of coaching.
“I think you have to be very careful with players like Shaun Alexander because I think he has great natural instincts,” Holmgren said. “Really, who am I to tell him how to run with the football? Really. He has some great natural gifts that God gave him.”
Flashbacks: If the Chiefs come out of this weekend with a loss, it won’t be for a lack of preparation.
Kansas City’s coaching staff already watched game tapes of the Seahawks in the days leading up to a scheduled meeting between the two teams on Sept. 16. That game was rescheduled due to the terrorist attacks.
The Chiefs had their bye week Sunday, essentially meaning they have had two weeks to prepare for the Seahawks.
“I think they’re much better now than when we were getting ready to play them the first time,” Vermeil said.
No holiday: The Seahawks will practice this morning, even though it’s Thanksgiving Day.
Holmgren did move the practice back two hours and gave the players the afternoon off so they could spend time with friends and family.
Injury update: Running back Ricky Watters (out with a shoulder injury) and defensive lineman Lamar King (questionable, calf) appear to be the only Seahawks in danger of not playing this weekend. Free safety Marcus Robertson (hamstring), wide receiver Fabien Bownes (concussion) and tight end Christian Fauria (ankle) are listed as probable.