It's the nature of the game. It's why the fantasy pundits preach hand-cuffing – that is, drafting the backups to your stud running backs. Injuries happen indiscriminately in the NFL, meaning even iron men like reigning MVP Shaun Alexander are not immune to the bug – it was learned on Monday that Alexander is out for 2-4 weeks with a broken foot.
I've watched every carry Alexander has handled this season, and it was clear to me as I observed him in person at Qwest Field in Week 2 and from my couch in Week 3 that something wasn't right. It's actually a little comforting to learn that he has a legitimate excuse for his lack of production and for the way he has gingerly avoided taking on contact the past couple weeks. It was known after his second game that he was dealing with a bruised foot, but apparently the injury evolved this week into a crack in a bone.
So, to quote one of my colleagues who pinged me just as I began to write this reaction piece, "Let the scramble for Maurice Morris begin." And, yes, a scramble it should be. Morris will take over featured duties in the Seattle backfield until Alexander returns. And, here's the beauty of it: Because Alexander has never missed a game in his six-plus years in the league, fantasy owners apparently felt that backup insurance was not required. Therefore, Morris is available in 99.87 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Unfortunately for those in dire need of running back help, Morris draws the Chicago Bears in his first start this Sunday. The Bears rank ninth in the league against the rush, allowing just 82 yards per game on the ground. But leading men Ahman Green and Kevin Jones combined for 32 carries, 154 rushing yards (4.8 yards per carry), nine catches and 60 receiving yards in games against Chicago this season. The success the two have found in the passing game against the Bears has some relevance to Morris, as he's a very good receiving back. If you land Morris off waivers this week, it's reasonable to expect at least modest production – 100 total yards of offense but just a small chance to score sounds about right.
After Chicago, Seattle observes a bye in Week 5. The big question regarding Alexander at the moment is whether he'll be able to return in Week 6 when the team travels to St. Louis. If I had to hazard a guess, I'd say that he probably won't – it's a road game on an artificial surface, and Alexander is the offensive focal point for a team with Super Bowl aspirations again. The team could decide to play it extra cautious with this foot injury and make sure it's completely healed before bringing him back. Obviously, running backs rely heavily on their feet to make crucial cuts. And Alexander, for a bigger back, owes much of his success to the fact that he has nifty, nimble feet.
Owners who land Morris should bank on at least a couple of starts, and they'll want to hang on to him after that, as there's a good chance Seattle will try to limit Alexander's workload until it feels assured that the issue is behind him completely. Morris has value as a "flex" play this week, but he'd be a strong play against St. Louis' 23rd-ranked run defense in Week 6, if Alexander still can't go.