RENTON, Wash. -- Offensive tackle Russell Okung became the fourth Seattle Seahawks player to make ESPN.com’s countdown of the top 100 NFL players on offense and defense.

Okung, 25, is listed at No. 65 overall on offense. He’s starting his fifth NFL season as Seattle’s starting left tackle. He made the Pro Bowl in 2012, but missed half of last season with a torn ligament in a big toe.

Okung (6-foot-5, 310 pounds) played well in the final nine games last season, even though his foot was not healed. He had offseason surgery to repair the ligament and returned to practice last week.

Okung, a first-round draft choice out of Oklahoma State in 2010, is one of the best left tackles in the league when he’s healthy, but staying healthy has plagued his career so far.

When he's on the field, he clearly makes a difference. ESPN Stats & Information came up with this tidbit:

In the past two seasons, quarterback Russell Wilson was sacked on 7.2 percent of his dropbacks when Okung was on the field, compared to 9.4 percent when Okung was not on the field.

The other three Seahawks who appeared on the countdown earlier were defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (No. 94), linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin (No. 87) and center Max Unger (No. 84).
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Watching a St. Louis Rams game, preseason or otherwise, without the presence of linebacker James Laurinaitis is a little bit strange.

Since the Rams drafted Laurinaitis in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft, he has been one of the few stalwarts in the lineup at his usual position every day of every week for five years. Before missing the first two preseason games against Green Bay and New Orleans with a left ankle injury, Laurinaitis had only missed a single preseason game early in his career.

[+] EnlargeJames Laurinaitis
Michael Thomas/Getty ImagesJames Laurinaitis (ankle) has been sidelined in the preseason but has not missed a regular season game in his career.
Aside from that minor blip, Laurinaitis has played all 80 regular-season games and rarely even missed practice. A self-described football junkie, Laurinaitis hasn't taken well to sitting out the past couple of weeks. So it was with great pleasure that he returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday.

"I don’t rest very well," Laurinaitis said. "It’s not one of my attributes. I don’t like it. It felt good to be out there. I would assume that we do a little more tomorrow and just keep phasing back in."

Laurinaitis suffered the ankle injury early in training camp when he says he tripped over defensive tackle Kendall Langford and awkwardly twisted the ankle. The ankle is the same one Laurinaitis had bone spurs in and was cleaned out in minor surgery in the offseason. According to Laurinaitis, the injury actually deals with the same ligament though it's a different injury.

More than two weeks removed, Laurinaitis said he's feeling much better.

"It just happened to be that exact ligament, got stressed a little bit," Laurinaitis said. "It really felt great today."

Whether Laurinaitis plays against the Cleveland Browns on Saturday remains to be seen, but he has made it clear that he'd like to get some work in the preseason one way or another.

"I want to get out there just to be able to, if I don’t play Saturday I’ll definitely play against Miami because I need to get out there and hit blocks and throw and tackle and all those things," Laurinaitis said. "That’s why I don’t like just kind of standing around."

Of course, if this weekend was the start of the regular season, there's little doubt in Laurinaitis' mind that he'd be playing. The Rams have taken a cautious approach with all of their key injured players, bringing them along slowly to ensure there are no setbacks.

Despite Laurinaitis' desire to get back on the field sooner than later, he has come to grips with that approach knowing that it's a means to an end.

"I pride myself always on being available," Laurinaitis said. "We always talk about ability and availability. Two big things that Coach [Gregg] Williams is big on and I’ve always been big on. I pride myself on the fact that I haven’t missed a regular season game. You’ve got to be smart. Because if you go out there like, ‘Hey, let’s test it’ and you do all these things then you have a setback and you’re out another four weeks or three weeks, that would be a terrible deal."
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Most likely, injured St. Louis Rams running back Isaiah Pead will land on the team's injured reserve list as he rehabilitates from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Pead
But the move the Rams made Wednesday afternoon at least leaves the door open for the long shot chance he could land elsewhere. The Rams waived Pead with the injury designation on the league's official transaction list.

By placing Pead on waivers, the other 31 teams in the league have 24 hours to claim him. But it would come as a surprise if another team opted to pick up Pead given his $757,100 price tag and injury status. Assuming Pead clears waivers Thursday, he then reverts to the Rams' injured reserve list unless the sides come to an injury settlement.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher's comments in announcing Pead was lost for the season would indicate the plan is for Pead to land on injured reserve and do his rehab in St. Louis before coming back in 2015.

"He worked very very hard to get in the position to where he was a very productive special teamer for us," Fisher said. "And we had high hopes for him doing some things out of the backfield for us as well. So he’ll be undergoing surgery in the next 10 days to two weeks, which is typical with these injuries. So he’s got a long road ahead of him, but I’m confident that as he’s matured over the last couple years that he’ll get back in good shape next year."

The Rams originally drafted Pead with a second-round pick in 2012, but he's had little impact in his two seasons in St. Louis. In 25 games, he has 75 rushing yards and 94 receiving yards. He settled in to a special teams role last season and earned high marks from the coaching staff for his work there. Fisher said the Rams had plans to use Pead in a similar role this season with the occasional contribution to the offense.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With his résumé and skill set, Stevie Johnson has the credentials to be a No. 1 receiver on many teams in the NFL. So yeah, there's a reason the San Francisco 49ers acquired him in a draft-day trade.

It's just that with Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin already on the roster, Johnson being Colin Kaepernick's go-to guy was not the team's motive when it shipped a conditional fourth-round pick in the 2015 draft to the Buffalo Bills for him.

Johnson
Rather, Johnson was brought in for depth and he is competing with Brandon Lloyd, Quinton Patton and fourth-round draft pick Bruce Ellington to be the 49ers' third receiver, even if they seldom used three-wideout sets last season.

“I'm pretty sure everybody already knows the bulk of it will be with Crab and Boldin,” Johnson said Wednesday. “So we're just fitting in right after them.”

In fact, to make his case more appealing, Johnson has worked at all three receiver spots in camp.

“[I'm] not necessarily thinking who's going to be out there in certain personnel [groups],” he said, “just, whenever you get your opportunity, let's make it work. Because that's what we're all thinking. We have a lot of great players, a lot of good players that can make plays.

“Everybody can't be on the field at once. So there's going to be times when you're called upon and just, hopefully, you show up.”

That's exactly what Johnson, a seventh-round draft choice of the Bills out of Kentucky in 2008, did with three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons from 2010 to 2012. That's something not even Hall of Famer Andre Reed did in 15 years with the Bills.

Johnson averaged 79 catches, 1,041 yards and eight TD catches in those years, before missing four games last season and finishing with 52 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns.

“I think we definitely understand how he can fit in," 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said of Johnson. “I really believe ... that we just need to keep working to develop the level of chemistry that we want.

“Really happy to have Stevie and I think he'll bring a lot to the table. Have a good feel for his skill set. I love his energy out there and just us as a unit need to continue to work every day to develop that chemistry.”

Rams Camp Report: Day 17

August, 20, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of St. Louis Rams training camp:
  • The Rams wrapped up the training camp portion of their preseason with a spirited practice in front of some special guests Wednesday afternoon. The football teams from Ferguson, Missouri-area high schools McCluer and McCluer North attended the practice before and after having their own practices in the indoor Rams Park facility. What they saw was a long, hot workout, but they also provided a little jolt of energy that certainly helped the Rams through the workout.
  • On the field, the Rams continue to make strides toward getting four key starters back on the field. Left tackle Jake Long continues on his trajectory to play against the Browns on Saturday as he took the bulk of the reps at his usual spot. Defensive tackle Michael Brockers again took most of the reps with the first-team defense at his spot and said he's expecting to play against Cleveland. Guard Rodger Saffold went beyond the individual work he did Tuesday and participated in some team drills by taking snaps at both guard spots. And linebacker James Laurinaitis, who has been out with an ankle injury, even got back in some seven-on-seven drills, though he has yet to play in 11-on-11. Laurinaitis spoke after practice and confirmed that the injury is to the same ankle he had offseason surgery on, but that the issues are unrelated. He says he's feeling good and if there had been a regular-season game anytime recently, he'd have played. The Rams have taken a cautious approach with all four players.
  • The Rams receivers had a bit of a rough go during one-on-one drills as wideouts Kenny Britt and Austin Pettis dropped what should have been easy completions. Tight end Jared Cook had no such issues and came up with a nice grab on a deep, back-shoulder throw from quarterback Sam Bradford in team drills. Cornerback Trumaine Johnson made a nice play on a deep pass on the next snap but was not pleased with himself when he didn't come up with the interception. Otherwise, the day was pretty nondescript as the Rams slogged through another long, hot practice.
  • As is custom, the Rams closed training camp with their usual "dizzy bat" races for all of the rookies and team interns. All participants pick up a ball and run 10 yards, drop it off, run another 10 yards and then do 10 spins with a wiffle ball bat. The catch is that the veterans can distract all participants by any means necessary, including dumping water and Gatorade on those spinning. It's a lighthearted and fun way to call it a camp.
  • Aside from the high school teams taking in practice, the Rams had another special guest Wednesday: newly minted Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive back Aeneas Williams.
  • Wednesday's practice was the final day of training camp open to the fans, but the Rams will be back at it Thursday afternoon for their final practice before traveling to Cleveland on Friday.
GLENDALE, Ariz. – It wasn't much of a practice but that didn't matter.

It was enough for Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu that he was wearing shoulder pads and a helmet while running and cutting in drills less than 8.5 months after he tore his ACL and LCL in a gruesome hit in Week 14. It's what he's been waiting for. It was the first step to his second comeback.

His return will be methodical. Wednesday, he went through individual defensive back drills and did some running on a side field, but he mostly stood and watched. This is how it'll be for the next couple of days. Then, slowly, Mathieu will be incorporated into contact drills and then team drills.

[+] EnlargeFree safety Tyrann Mathieu
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTyrann Mathieu will take it slowly before returning to the field from his knee injury.
Not rushed yet not too slow.

"Obviously, I want to work my way back in," Mathieu said. "I don't want to step on anybody's toes. I want to earn my right on this field. I just don't want anybody to give it to me. I'm just going to go out there and work as hard as I can.

"Hopefully, my progression goes well."

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians will keep a close eye on how many plays Mathieu makes when he returns to full contact team drills. But it'll be hard for him to keep Mathieu off the field. He's too valuable, too talented, too impactful.

And Arians knows that.

"Well, you don't have to substitute because he has corner ability. He's a safety that can cover. He can play in the slot. He can go out wide," Arians said. "You can stay in your base package and really you still have three corners out there with him and [he has] great range in the deep end of the field. He allows us to do a lot of different things.

"Not that we can't do them with [safety] Rashad [Johnson] and [safety] Tony [Jefferson] but they don't have quite the coverage skills that he has as a corner."

While Arians won't be surprised if Mathieu plays Sunday night against the Bengals, Mathieu all but ruled it out. He has his eyes on a bigger prize: "Monday Night Football." The Week 1 game against the San Diego Chargers been his goal since he began rehab but his return to practice Wednesday made it realistic for the first time.

Before first Arians wants to make sure the Honey Badger can keep up with the speed of the game. To do that, Mathieu must be healthy. No limping allowed, Arians said.

"Practice speed is one thing," Arians said. "Game speed is [another] thing."

There are only two more chances for Mathieu to get reacclimated to the pace of a game. If he doesn't play Sunday, his last chance is Aug. 28 in San Diego. He'll need that moment every injured athlete has during a comeback when he realizes he's the player of old.

Mathieu thinks that'll come on his first play.

"I think I'll be comfortable with it," he said, then correcting himself. "I'll be comfortable with it. I'm just waiting for that moment when I really get tested. Then I'll know for sure whether I'm the same player or whether I'll have to pick it up a little bit."

Mathieu will be wearing a red brace on his left knee for the rest of the season but not by his choice. He'd rather roam without it but he's just following trainers' orders. He's practiced with it on for the past two months and said it's not restrictive.

As the week progresses, Mathieu's knee will continue to be tested. He understands there'll be good and bad days, but he won't let the minor setbacks affect his confidence. Maybe most importantly, he won't feel sorry for himself.

"I'm sure in the middle of the game in this upcoming season I'll get sore, I'll get tight and I'll have to push through it," he said. "I think it's all about what I tell myself. I just try to keep positive thoughts in my mind."

Especially during the last months, Mathieu has turned to his teammates as a sounding board and for their insight. Recently signed linebacker Desmond Bishop told Mathieu he had a similar injury and that once that moment comes, it'll change how he plays.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd, who practiced with Mathieu on an outside field during the past week, told Mathieu he looked "pretty good."

"So, that goes along way," Mathieu said.

On Wednesday, Calais Campbell said Mathieu hasn't lost a step.

"That guy's special," Campbell said. "You can see it in his eyes. He was just excited to be back. You can see the confidence in his look."

That look, the one Mathieu has perfected, started to come back Wednesday.

"It's always good," Arians said. "to have that smile back on the field."

49ers practice report

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
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SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Before being pulled off Levi’s Stadium’s loose grass field less than an hour after practice began by coach Jim Harbaugh, the San Francisco 49ers did go through the paces for a bit in front of a couple thousand fans.

A few highlights, then, of the 49ers' final public practice.
  • Wide receiver Michael Crabtree was still not in attendance, as he was in Texas the day before for the birth of his son Michael III.
  • Even before the public practice was cut short, the poor condition of the field was obvious, from divots flying out when players made cuts to the discolored spots in the middle of the field. And if Bruce Ellington tweaking his right ankle in a one-on-one drill with cornerback Chris Culliver was not proof enough, then Stevie Johnson taking a spill untouched on an out pattern at the goal line and jerking his left leg sealed it.
  • Phil Dawson, one of the more accurate kickers in NFL history, continued to work on his craft after missing a pair of field goals in Sunday’s 34-0 exhibition loss to the Denver Broncos by kicking numerous field goals. If Andy Lee was not holding, then Dawson had a metal holder in his place so he could work solo.
  • Ellington, LaMichael James and veteran Anquan Boldin were the three players fielding punts.
  • Cornerback Tramaine Brock picked off McLeod Bethel-Thompson on a pass intended for David Reed on the right sideline and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown.

Cardinals Camp Report: Day 17

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
8:45
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GLENDALE, Ariz. – A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Arizona Cardinals training camp:
  • Tyrann Mathieu made his long-awaited return to the field Wednesday, participating in a few individual defensive back drills as expected. He sat out contact periods and spent time running with former LSU teammate Kevin Minter on the Cards’ side field.
  • It didn’t take long for Arizona’s latest addition to start making an impact. Defensive tackle Isaac Sopoaga signed Wednesday afternoon and was at practice soon after. He was playing with the first-team defense, lining up at nose tackle at times. He said it wasn’t difficult to sign a contract, throw on a jersey and take the field, all in the course of about an hour. “No way,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 11 years.”
  • Arizona’s starting defensive front is likely to be Frostee Rucker, Dan Williams and Calais Campbell on the line, with John Abraham and Matt Shaughnessy coming off the edges.
  • On one play Wednesday, Abraham came off the edge and got into the backfield quick enough that when backup quarterback Drew Stanton turned around to find a receiver, Abraham was in his face disrupting the play.
  • Rookie Ed Stinson was part of the Cards’ nickel defensive front.
  • Ted Larsen's versatility was on display again. As the Cardinals’ backup center, he worked with Stanton during center-quarterback exchange drills, but Larsen and starting center Lyle Sendlein switched quarterbacks to get extra reps.
  • The defense looked strong again. Shaughnessy came down with an interception off a Stanton pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage by safety Tony Jefferson. Later in practice, Jerraud Powers picked off rookie Logan Thomas during 7-on-7 drills.
  • The Cardinals spent the majority of their 11-on-11 periods working on either the run or deep passes. Jaron Brown made another big pass look easy when he grabbed a catch over cornerback Eddie Whitley. Carson Palmer and running back Andre Ellington even got in on the fun, connecting on a deep ball.
  • Jay Feely and Chandler Catanzaro will split the kicking duties Sunday against Cincinnati. Feely will kick in the first half and Catanzaro in the second. On Wednesday, Feely went 5-for-5, hitting from 23, 32, 39, 38 and 47 yards, respectively. Catanzaro hit his first two from 23 and 33 and then missed his final three from 41, 40 and 47.
  • Injury report: Minter (pec), T Max Starks (ankle) and G Jonathan Cooper (toe) didn’t practice.
  • Arizona holds its second to last training camp practice Thursday from 2-4:30 p.m. at University of Phoenix Stadium. Admission and parking are free.
RENTON, Wash. -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Washington Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall blame the Seattle Seahawks for the increased number of penalty flags thrown in the first two preseason games.

“It came about from Seattle,” Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 FM The Fan radio in Dallas. “They basically played a style that would risk a holding penalty as opposed to not having an aggressive defender back there. That got a lot of complaints and you're seeing it reflected during the preseason."

Hall also said he believes the extra penalties are a result of the way the Seahawks played defense en route to winning the Super Bowl.

“The Seahawks got their ring, they did it their way,” Hall told NBC4 in Washington D.C. “Now we all have to pay the consequences.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – While it would be nice for the Denver Broncos to get running back Montee Ball into a preseason game for a few snaps, get him a carry, see him run through some contact, his real target date to be ready to go is still Sept. 7, or the regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.

Ball, who had an appendectomy Aug. 4, returned to the practice field Tuesday and did a little more on Wednesday, but as it stands now the Broncos’ top running back is not expected to play in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Houston Texans. And since the Broncos usually play few, if any, starters in the fourth preseason game, Ball’s most likely return date is still the regular-season opener.

“Honestly, I don’t know,’’ Ball said after Wednesday’s practice. “We literally play it by ear when the day comes as to how I feel in the morning, and [there's] no reason to rush right now. The most important thing I’m doing is staying in the playbook, listening to Peyton’s adjustments, all that, staying in tune with everything and then contributing as much as possible.’’

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsMontee Ball is working to gain weight he lost after having an appendectomy earlier this month.
Ball has been tabbed as the Broncos’ lead back since the start of offseason workouts and quarterback Peyton Manning has consistently said the second-year back is ready for a far larger role in the offense than Ball had as a rookie in 2013. Last season, after being the Broncos’ second-round pick in the 2013 draft, Ball finished with 559 yards rushing on 120 carries.

This year, the Broncos have big plans for Ball, so much so he might be the first Broncos back to top 250 carries in a season for the team since Reuben Droughns lugged it 275 times in 2004. So the practice rotation changed significantly when Ball felt abdominal pains in the early-morning hours just over two weeks ago.

With Ball out, Ronnie Hillman has taken most of the snaps with the starting offense, but C.J. Anderson and undrafted rookie Juwan Thompson, who has made a quality case to make the roster with his all-around work, also getting a selection of snaps with the regulars as well.

Given Ball’s work in the rest of the offseason program, as well as early on in training camp, the Broncos do not feel compelled to rush him back into the lineup now when he is expected to be such a big part of their offense later.

“I don’t know where he’s really at right now,’’ said offensive coordinator Adam Gase. “The trainers just let me know.’’

Ball did some individual drills with the other backs Tuesday, but did not participate in much else during practice, the first of three this week with the Houston Texans. On Wednesday, Ball did slightly more, doing individual drills as well as a few snaps in 7-on-7 drills with the starters. Broncos head coach John Fox said the team would “continue to upgrade’’ Ball’s participation in practice during the remaining preseason practices, including one Thursday with the Texans.

Ball said Wednesday he had lost some weight during his recovery from the appendectomy and is working his way back to 215 pounds, where he was before training camp opened. That, too, is a factor in his full return to the lineup, but again, the Broncos' focus for Ball is not Saturday, it’s the opener.

“[The weight] is slowly, slowly coming back,’’ Ball said. “I actually like it. I feel a lot faster, a lot more agile. So I’m going to play around with it a little bit, see how it is.’’

One offshoot of Ball’s absence is it has allowed the Broncos to give a long look at the other backs on the roster in some first-team or second-team situations in team drills, carries those backs might not have received had the Broncos simply been working Ball with the starters much of the time.

The Broncos opened camp with a young group at the position – Hillman, entering his third season, is the most experienced – and with roster cuts looming, the team faces a decision about how many backs they will keep and who those backs will be after Ball and Hillman.

For his part, Ball said he’s pointing to a full-speed start of the season, even though the waiting is indeed the hardest part.

“It’s frustrating, just because it’s a job that I love doing. It sucks — sitting on the sideline watching everybody else play and you’re not contributing like you want to. We have a great training staff and they’re doing a great job of bringing me along. … There’s no pain at all. It’s just now we’re going to see how it is to take contact. We’re going to see how it is. I’m sure we’re going to do some things with that. … It’s time to go. I’m here to play football, not to sit on the sideline.’’
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – On their first offensive drive of the preseason, the San Francisco 49ers went 66 yards in seven plays against the Baltimore Ravens and Phil Dawson kicked a 25-yard field goal.

Since then?

[+] EnlargeColin Kaepernick
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsColin Kaepernick and the 49ers' offense have struggled to score points throughout the preseason.
Nothing. The 49ers have been shut out. That’s 20 fruitless possessions total, and running.

Granted, starting quarterback Colin Kaepernick and, to a great extent, the first-team offense has only played two of those ensuing series. But to be blanked for such a lengthy time should not sit well with the 49ers, especially after being pummelled, 34-0, by the Denver Broncos on Sunday in the first game at Levi’s Stadium.

“Not good,” 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman said Wednesday, “at all.”

Consider: the 49ers are the only team in the NFL without a touchdown after at least two preseason games. Which is why it seemed strange but appropriate that Roman opened his presser by commending his colleagues in what appeared to be a pump-up speech.

“We’ve got a lot of things going on right now,” he said, unprompted. “Our offensive staff, I’ve just got to commend them. To a man, they do a great job. Very fortunate to work with this group. This is our fourth year together, for the most part, a couple guys here and there, and to a position, I think they do as good a job as anybody in the NFL.”

Asked why he would make such a statement, Roman did not flinch.

“Probably could do it every day,” he said. “They do a great job, day in and day out. Work tirelessly. It’s a staff with absolutely no motives, other than to help the players and to win.

“Probably should do it more.”

Kaepernick said a day earlier that the 49ers' offense merely had to establish a “rhythm” to get going.

“I think that’s the biggest thing we need to get right now,” he said.

And by Roman’s analysis of the game tape, that should not be too hard to establish soon. Perhaps even in this weekend’s third preseason game, against the visiting San Diego Chargers.

“A lot of very good individual performances, a lot of good individual moments but not enough collective, cohesion, precision by the offensive unit to play winning football,” Roman said of his players’ performance against Denver.

“You go through the tape, [here are] a lot of good things. But it serves as a great tool for us to understand that football is the ultimate team sport and it takes 11 guys on the field to get the job done. We’ve got to do better.”
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Two more San Francisco 49ers players check in Wednesday on ESPN.com’s Top 100 players list.

Linebacker Ahmad Brooks is No. 74 among defensive players while safety Eric Reid is ranked No. 71.

"Brooks recorded a postseason-best 4.5 sacks last year, the most in a postseason since 2010 (Terrell Suggs, five)," read the list. "During the regular season, Brooks also set a career high with 8.5 sacks."

Reid, meanwhile, has become an elder statesman, of sorts, in the 49ers' secondary with fellow safety Antoine Bethea currently concussed.

"Eric Reid intercepted four passes in 2013," the report read, "second-most among rookies last season."

Brooks and Reid join Bethea and right tackle Anthony Davis, who were ranked No. 97 and No. 81 on the defensive and offensive lists, respectively.

Rams come in last on Forbes' list

August, 20, 2014
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EARTH CITY, Mo. -- A year ago, the St. Louis Rams made the largest gains in Forbes' annual rankings of the NFL's most valuable franchises. In the newest version of those rankings, the Rams are worth more than they were a year ago but were surpassed by the rest of the league in total value.

With an uncertain stadium situation and a team that hasn't had a winning season in a decade, the Rams checked in at No. 32 in the latest valuations from Forbes.

In this year's valuations, the Rams' estimated value comes in at $930 million. Earlier this year, that was enough to make the Rams the 45th most valuable franchise in all of sports according to Forbes. Of course, that simply speaks to the overall value of every NFL team.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesThe Rams trail the Titans and every other NFL team in value, thanks in no small part to their antiquated stadium.
But the Rams aren't faring too well when it comes to keeping up with the Joneses. The Dallas Cowboys, whom Forbes ranks as the second-most valuable franchise in all of sports, top the NFL list by coming in at $3.2 billion -- or more than three times what the Rams are worth.

Per Forbes, the Rams' 2013 revenue was $250 million with an operating income of $16 million.

In assessing why the Rams came in at the bottom of the list, here's what Forbes had to say:

The Rams play in the antiquated Edward Jones Dome, but can move in March 2015 and are considered a likely candidate to be one of two NFL teams headed to Los Angeles.

Of course, whether the Rams eventually return to Los Angeles is a consistent topic amongst fans in St. Louis and southern California. Although the Rams' lease at the Edward Jones Dome expires after this season, that situation likely won't gain much clarity anytime soon. It's also worth noting where the Rams came in on the rankings last year when they made the biggest gains in terms of percentage value of any team in the league.

In 2013, the Rams were No. 29 on the list, ahead of Buffalo, Jacksonville and Oakland. They were valued at $875 million, up 12 percent from the $780 million value of 2012.

But that push last year came on the heels of the Rams’ victory in their arbitration case with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. Forbes viewed that victory as a positive in their valuation and the uptick accounted for the upward mobility that a new stadium would generate in terms of revenue along with expected league-wide revenue increases.

Cleary, the Rams' win in that arbitration case has done nothing to nudge forward a stadium solution or a major renovation of the Edward Jones Dome.

While the Rams' value is up $55 million from last year, the uncertainty surrounding the stadium and the fact the Edward Jones Dome is among the worst venues in the league leaves the Rams now trailing even the likes of the Bills, Jaguars and Raiders.

A move back to Los Angeles, as suggested by Forbes, would clearly elevate the Rams in these rankings considering all that would come with it, including a new stadium and an increase in market size. Here in St. Louis, a new stadium would also go a long way toward increasing the team's value.

But until there's at least some sort of tangible movement on a solution, it's a safe bet the Rams will remain at the bottom of lists such as these.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- With a gleaming new home rising from the South Bay landscape, the San Francisco 49ers are no doubt on the NFL’s hot list. And when it comes to Forbes’ list of most valuable franchises in the league, the 49ers, who have played in three straight NFC title games and a Super Bowl in that span, are also a Top 10 franchise.

The 49ers check in at No. 9 in the 32-team NFL with an estimated value of $1.6 billion. The Forbes list also listed the franchise’s revenue for 2013 at $270 million and an operating income of $25 million.

“The 49ers opened their new, privately financed, 68,500-seat stadium in Santa Clara in July, and will host Super Bowl 50 in February 2016,” the Forbes report read.

The Dallas Cowboys were No. 1 on the Forbes list, valued at $3.2 billion, for the eighth straight year, and were followed by the New England Patriots ($2.6 billion), Washington ($2.4 billion), the New York Giants ($2.1 billion) and the Houston Texans ($1.85 billion) in the top five. And in case you did not notice, the only team in that list to make the playoffs last season was New England.

The league average for franchise worth was $1.43 billion.

As far as the NFC West is concerned, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks were 15th overall with an estimated value of $1.33 billion, followed by the Arizona Cardinals ($1.0 billion, 25th overall) and the St. Louis Rams ($930 million, 32nd).

Meanwhile, across the Bay, the Oakland Raiders were 28th, with an estimated value of $970 million to go with a revenue of $244 million in 2013 and an operating income of $43 million.

“The Raiders signed a new short-term lease with the joint Oakland-Alameda County board that runs O.co Coliseum in late 2013 and have been exploring opportunities about moving to Los Angeles and San Antonio,” Forbes wrote.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has suggested the Raiders becoming a tenant of the 49ers’ Levi’s Stadium in the near future.
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- When St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Rodger Saffold played a preseason game in his hometown of Cleveland last season, he suffered a shoulder injury.

As Saffold and the Rams head back to Saffold's old stomping grounds for their third preseason game this year, Saffold looks poised to return from another shoulder injury.

"Of course I plan on playing," Saffold said. "I’ve felt good for awhile. I know they want to be super cautious and that’s fine but I’ve been working since I got hurt, so really I just hope this transition back onto the field won’t be that big of a transition. I feel in shape, I feel rested. I’m good all the way around."

[+] EnlargeRodger Saffold
AP Photo/G. Newman LowranceRodger Saffold is expected to start at right guard for the Rams.
Saffold suffered what he and the Rams call a "stinger" in his left shoulder in a training camp practice on Aug. 1. The stinger has been enough to keep Saffold on the sidelines since, and kept him out of the team's first two preseason games against Green Bay and New Orleans. He did return to practice on a limited basis Tuesday, taking part in individual drills but sitting out the 11-on-11 portion of the workout.

Although Saffold and the team have insisted it's a minor injury, all parties have opted for a cautious approach. Rightfully so, given Saffold's extensive injury history. And his shoulder was such a point of contention in the offseason that the Oakland Raiders backed out of a lucrative multi-year contract with Saffold when their doctors failed him on a physical because of it.

In no small part because of that history, the Rams made it clear to Saffold soon after the injury that they were in no hurry to get him back in the preseason. Saffold is entering his fifth season in the league and his third in Brian Schottenheimer's offense, so keeping up with the mental part of his job should be little problem.

"It was nowhere near as bad as last time, but as a coach you want to make sure you take care of your players," Saffold said. "They’ve seen me play so they know what I can do, so they say 'Why don’t you just sit this one out? Let’s just make sure you’re good so we don’t have any future problems that could really be a problem.' I just said OK."

It remains unclear whether Saffold will get to play against the Browns as the Rams continue to monitor him day to day. Saffold joked Tuesday that he's the only Ram who has yet to hit somebody in a different uniform and that he intends to test the willpower of head athletic trainer Reggie Scott this week in an effort to get back on the field.

Getting Saffold back would give the Rams a chance to have their projected starting offensive line together for the first time in a game. It would also give Saffold some needed reps at right guard.

Although Saffold showed well at his new position for the last part of the 2013 season, the sample size remains small. He is comfortable at the position. but spent the early parts of camp playing left tackle and both guard spots, rather than settling at his projected position.

The chance to get some work in preseason games should allow things to slow down for Saffold inside.

"You want to be able to be under control but still be able to play fast and physical," Saffold said. "Sometimes you can get too excited or overly excited and you move too fast and get yourself in bad positions. I’m able to recover some of those things, but I want to get my technique down pat to the point where it’s kind of easy when it comes to the game."

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