Alexander 'full go' for NFC title game


Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 19, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren removed all doubt Wednesday: NFL MVP Shaun Alexander will play in Sunday's conference championship game against Carolina.
So will starting right tackle Sean Locklear, who spent the previous two days in jail on a domestic violence charge.
Alexander sustained a concussion last Saturday in the first quarter of Seattle's win over Washington. The league rushing champion later said he was unconscious initially and then "out" of it for about 20 minutes.
But Holmgren said Wednesday the All-Pro back will be ready for the Panthers.
"Shaun's full go," the coach said. "He passed some tests we gave him yesterday. He participated in our walkthrough this morning. He's going to be fine."
In the full afternoon non-contact practice, Alexander split first-team practice time with backup Maurice Morris. Morris rushed 18 times for 49 yards while replacing Alexander on Saturday.
Alexander, who rushed for a team-record 1,880 yards in the regular season, joked he learned something about himself over a four-day battery of doctors' tests.
"Oh yeah. I took all the tests and realized the guy knocked some sense into me," Alexander said of Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington, who appeared to hit the back of Alexander's helmet during a 1-yard loss Saturday. "I am actually smarter than I was before."
LIONS: Rod Marinelli was nearing an agreement with Detroit on Wednesday night to become its new head coach, a team source told The Associated Press.
The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team had not made an announcement, said Marinelli was to leave the team's practice facility on Wednesday night, but stayed to negotiate his contract.
Marinelli spent the past 10 seasons in Tampa Bay as defensive line coach. His unit helped establish an NFL record with 69 straight games with at least one sack from 1999-03. He had the title of assistant head coach added in 2002.
He has not been a head coach at any level, but attracted interest from at least one other team with an opening this offseason.
The Lions scheduled a news conference for this morning but did not provide any other details.
STEELERS: Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter won't be fined by the NFL for criticizing officials after the Steelers beat Indianapolis.
NFL coaches are subject to fines for criticizing officials, but players usually aren't fined.
Porter, a Pro Bowl selection and one of the Steelers' co-captains, criticized referee Pete Morelli's crew repeatedly during a series of postgame interviews following a 21-18 win in the AFC divisional round. Among other comments, Porter said, "The whole world wanted Indy to win so bad, they were going to do whatever they had to do."
NFL spokesman Steve Alic said there would be no fine for the remarks. Alic didn't elaborate.
SAINTS: The latest Bill Parcells protege to get an NFL head coaching job is Sean Payton. New Orleans is hoping he can be as good a turnaround specialist as his mentor.
Payton, a Dallas Cowboys assistant the past three seasons, was introduced Wednesday as the Saints' new head coach, inheriting a team that won three times last season and played all its games on the road because of Hurricane Katrina.
Payton, 42, is taking on his first head coaching job. In Dallas, he worked with quarterbacks and also held the title of assistant head coach. Before that, he was a New York Giants assistant, a stint that included that team's NFC championship in 2000.
Payton succeeds Jim Haslett, whose tenure lasted six years. The Saints went 3-13 in 2005, but were a .500 team during Haslett's first five seasons combined. The victories include the team's only playoff win.
Payton, the Saints' 14th head coach, acknowledged the problems caused by Katrina - for the team and the New Orleans area.
"Obviously 2005 was a traumatic year for this area, it was a tough time for this team. I hope that in some small way the effort of this team in 2006 and beyond will represent this city and this region well," Payton said.
"Some people would say: 'Stay in Dallas. The situation there is good.' We're three-quarters of the way through building a brand new house in Dallas," Payton said. "Hopefully I'm not viewed as a young, naive coach coming into a situation here. I'm excited about this opportunity. I know it's a challenge and we're going to roll our sleeves up."
Payton said being a part of the region's recovery from Katrina was more of a draw than a drawback, making the opportunity with the Saints "unique."
"We can impact people's lives in a positive way as they go through this transition," Payton said. "I think this area, this community, this region is tough, and our team better reflect that, too."
In addition to coaching quarterbacks, Payton had a very brief pro playing career at that position in the CFL and as a Chicago Bears replacement player during the 1987 strike.
Aaron Brooks, the Saints' starter for most of the past six seasons, had his worst season in 2005 and was benched for the final three games. If the Saints keep Brooks they would owe him about $6.5 million in salary next season.
Payton declined to comment on whether he thought Brooks should stay, saying it would be unfair to any players on the roster to decide their fate without studying more film of them.
He added he would not let go of any of Haslett's assistants without meeting with them first, but expected to bring in some of his own people.
This is the first coach hired by general manager Mickey Loomis, who was promoted after team owner Tom Benson fired Randy Mueller in 2002. Mueller, now the Miami Dolphins' general manager, hired Haslett.
"I believe we've hired a head coach that has what it takes to bring a championship to this city," Loomis said.
Payton is also the second straight coach hired by the Saints with no head coaching experience. It worked well early for Haslett, who took the Saints to the franchise's first playoff victory in his first season. That was one season, incidentally, after the Saints had gone 3-13 under Mike Ditka. But New Orleans has missed the playoffs in the five seasons since.
Loomis made a point of talking about Payton's "pedigree." In addition to his time with Parcells, Payton has worked with Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden (then in Philadelphia) and Carolina coach John Fox (with the New York Giants), both of whom have been highly complimentary of the Saints' choice.
"I get nervous when these guys all over the (NFC South) division are paying me compliments, but they're guys that have an impact, certainly, in my life," Payton said.
Four other coaches interviewed in New Orleans last week: Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, former Green Bay coach Mike Sherman, and former St. Louis coach Mike Martz.
Payton said he'll be much like Parcells in terms of attention to detail and discipline.
"There's too many games each weekend that are won in the last two minutes, less than seven points, and I think the teams that win those games on a consistent basis are the teams that ... do all the small things well in the offseason," Payton said. "It's not OK to be offsides. It's not OK to be late."
He added that he would be "the most selfish guy" when it comes to which players get on the field.
"I just want to win. So we're going to play the best players and we'll see what happens," he said.

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