Alexander takes it by steps

Posted: 9:45 p.m.

Shaun Alexander became one of the most prolific running backs in NFL history by going step-by-step toward 10,000 yards. He is doing the same in free agency, which he began by retracing his steps home to visit the Bengals Sunday and Monday, and plans to continue with a trip to the Saints and New Orleans.

Both sides apparently want to go slow and don't have an imminent timetable because all indications are the Bengals and Jim Steiner, Alexander's agent, had yet to touch base Monday night after his client had finished meeting with the coaches, some players, and taking a tour of Paul Brown Stadium. Alexander also said there are other teams interested.

"All I wanted to do was meet with them, get to know them and see what it was like here," said Alexander, when contacted at his hotel Monday evening. "They were nice. I liked it. They did everything right."

But the Bengals didn't make an offer as they apparently ponder the pros and cons of adding a 31-year-old coming off his two worst seasons into a running back mix that already includes the franchise's two-time single-season rusher in Rudi Johnson.

When asked if the coaches had sketched out how he would be used and if he would welcome maybe splitting carries with Johnson, Alexander said it hasn't gone that far.

"I haven't even really thought about that," Alexander said. "Right now I'm just trying to get an idea of what the team is like and getting to know some people. That's about all, and I'm going to New Orleans after I leave here. I'm just taking it step-by-step."

Alexander, the Florence, Ky., product who set state records for career yards and touchdowns at Boone County High School, also took his visit in pieces. He got in late Sunday night from Seattle and went right to PBS for his physical Monday morning. He didn't plan anything social until he finished the day with the Bengals, and he said he planned to head out to visit Northern Kentucky Monday night.

"It's always fun to come home," he said.

But it's more complicated than that when work gets involved. Two weeks ago Alexander was released from a $62 million deal in Seattle and the Bengals are up against a salary cap that includes Johnson counting about $3.5 million.

Plus, the Bengals running back situation just doesn't look clear enough to be able to make a clear-cut call on offering Alexander a contract. If Johnson and Chris Perry are healthy and back to 2005 form, would there be a reason to sign Alexander?

But the Bengals don't know that yet and Alexander offers great character and a track record, even if his numbers are down the last two years and he struggled last season with a broken wrist and knee and ankle problems.

Yet it would seem Kenny Watson and DeDe Dorsey also to have to make the roster because of what Watson does on third down and special teams and because of what Dorsey does with his speed.

Since the Bengals traditionally keep three running backs, the math makes it hard.

"It was a good visit," Alexander said. "We'll see what happens."

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