The lesson was learned almost as soon as last season began for Shaun Alexander.
Coming off a season that earned him the NFL's Most Valuable Player award, the all-time touchdown record of 28 and a Seattle Seahawks record 1,880 yards, the league rushing title, the NFC Championship and a trip to Super Bowl XL (a 21-10 loss to Pittsburgh).
It was tough to top that other than winning the Super Bowl, but he also received a long-term contract from the organization.
Indeed, 2005 gave him all of that, and yet the former Alabama All-American and first round draft choice in 2000 never settles. The eternal optimist wanted to top all of that.
But a 29-year-old running back can never count on staying healthy forever, and he suffered the first serious injury of his career – a cracked bone on the top of his foot at the outset of the regular season that caused him to initially play hurt and then sit out six games. Oh, by the end of the season, he was running as hard as ever and was very effective in the Seahawks two playoff games. Still, it didn't come close to what he envisioned with 896 yards and 7 touchdowns in 10 regular season games.
Don't expect him to change his approach now, however.
"I think if I all of a sudden changed how I look at the game, then it could hurt me," Alexander said. "I'm going to go back and do it the same way I've always done it. Set high goals and go after them. It's going to be a fun year. We've got some new blood in here, that's what I call it. It kind of changes everything around a little bit. I think sometimes some fresh faces and little different schemes are good for us. And I think that is what we're going through right now."
Perhaps more importantly he had his wife had their third child, they stayed in the Pacific Northwest throughout the off-season for the first time, and he consequently became much more ensconced in the organization and the off-season workout program with coach Mike Clark and his staff.
As a result, he's much trimmer than usual – when he works his way into shape during training camp – and was moving exceptionally well during mini-camp 10 days ago. And there's no reason everyone shouldn't expect the same when mini-camp resumes in a couple of weeks. Physically and mentally, he's as prepared as he's ever been.
"Better is an understatement," Alexander said. "For us to be here means we did great things. You want that. I think that just in a whole this offseason has been really really good. It's always good to have another child. And it's just been one of those things that the timing is right for me just to be around the house more, to be around this team more. I'm excited. My goals are still high and they are as high as they have ever been.
"Everybody has been calling me slim … I have no idea why because they haven't seen me running in a year, really running. I think it's just because I'm here. Normally I'm in Alabama right now."
And everyone is glad that he is. He rattled on about his foot, causing some people to misunderstand the situation. But because of the x-rays after the season and his performance at mini-camp, coach Mike Holmgren bristled when asked about the Alexander's foot when one story was written that completely blew it out of proportion.
"He is not going to have it looked at - no one is going to have it looked at," Holmgren said. "I haven't looked at it, he hasn't looked at it, no one has looked at it. I don't know why he said what he said. I don't know why whoever wrote it, wrote it. I just don't get it, but he is fine. We x-rayed it after the season was over, how long has it been? You saw him running out here, he is running all over the place. That is a non-story. Honest to goodness. There is nothing wrong with Shaun Alexander."
That seemed patently obvious. Alexander is excited about the youth on the offensive line as well, after seeing center Robbie Tobeck struggle last season, and then retire. Youngsters Rob Sims and Chris Spencer have been added, and there could be another change at right guard with Floyd Womack and young Ray Willis battling it out while Chris Gray slides over to center in the wake of Spencer recovering from shoulder surgery.
"I like it when things get changed up a little bit," Alexander said. "It makes it exciting. It makes everybody fresh again. It's exciting. I love this game and what it's about. It's about 11 guys coming together to do something special (on offense). You know what? And I like our 11. I like our 11."
The goal, of course, is to return to the Super Bowl, and Alexander expects his run on touchdowns to mount again as they did in his record-breaking run of 82 in the 4 years previous to last season. And he figures there is no reason not to feel that way.
All the talk about the improvement of the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and the St. Louis Rams has spurred some to believe it will be really tough for the Seahawks to win their fourth consecutive NFC West title. But in his typically unflappable fashion, Alexander just shrugged his shoulders when asked about the improvement of the other teams.
"They needed to," Alexander said. "When you win the division three years in a row, it says enough. I think it's going to be a challenge this year, but challenges are good. We've never been a team that wants to hope that someone else plays bad. We don't care what anybody is doing. We want to go out and just do what we do best, and that takes care of itself."