Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals receiver Early Doucet, who has overcome a rough start to his career. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "One thing we've been consistent with is we've made our players earn their opportunities on the field," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "Look at even Kurt (Warner). Kurt had to earn that job, too. I think it builds a hunger and confidence within these players. Early had it tough, but that created a toughness in Early. He understood what it took for him to prepare and get ready to play, and you're seeing it pay off now. His confidence has soared, and (against the Packers) we got a chance to see that really blossom."
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' defense has much to prove against the Saints. Antrel Rolle: "People can sleep on us all they want. We know what type of defense we are. We're not always going to play our best game. But we know what we're capable of, and we realize our mistakes when they happen."
John Faherty of the Arizona Republic says the Phoenix area is home to quite a few Saints fans displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
McManaman and Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offer Cardinals-related notes. Darnell Dockett and Gabe Watson want the ball in goal-line situations.
Also from Somers: Gerald Hayes and Anquan Boldin missed practice again Wednesday. Both could practice Thursday, Whisenhunt said.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Karlos Dansby is contributing for the Cardinals even though his stats aren't as good this season. Urban: "For the Cardinals, Dansby gives the defense an anchor around which the rest of the pieces can be placed. While the veteran still can step into the spotlight -- witness Sunday’s wild-card performance, when he tipped a pass to cause an interception, forced a key fumble and later returned a fumble for the game-winning touchdown -- it's Dansby’s reliability that makes him valuable."
Karen Crouse of the New York Times says Kurt Warner contemplates retirement in part because he wants to spend more time with his kids. Wife Brenda: "He wants to be as good a dad as he is a quarterback. He wants to be there, be in the moment with them, and football takes him away from that."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch joins colleagues in projecting Marc Bulger's future with the Rams. Thomas: "I still think it’s better than 50-50 that Bulger will not be back. And if he’s traded to a non-contending team he may pull a Jake Plummer and just retire. But in order to dispose of Bulger, the Rams need two quarterbacks — a veteran and a draft pick. How they fare on those two fronts over the next three months might have a lot to do with whether Bulger returns to St. Louis in 2010." I see no way for the Rams to bring back Bulger under his current contract, which features an $8.5 million salary for 2010. That is far too much money for what Bulger has been able to offer in return.
Turf Show Times' VanRam says the stats show the Rams' offense to have been worse than its defense, and the team needs playmakers.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with Bobby April, who met with Mike Singletary regarding the 49ers' opening for a special-teams coach. Barrows: "April, 56, said he had a good conversation with Mike Singletary in Orlando on Tuesday. He said that Singletary did not offer him the job, although the two plan to speak by telephone later this week. April also has met with the Steelers about their vacancy at special teams coordinator and that he's heard from other teams as well."
Also from Barrows: 49ers defensive lineman Ricky Jean-Francois is awaiting word regarding the safety of relatives affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Barrows: "He said he spoke briefly with his brother who said that he had to dodge a falling ceiling fan when the earthquake struck. When he went outside, his bother saw that much of Port-au Prince, a city of 2 million, had been flattened."
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Nate Clements, Michael Lewis and Brandon Jones need to justify their salaries or take paycuts before returning in 2010. Maiocco: "The question is whether the 49ers are prepared to pay Clements $6 million to play cornerback. That is more than twice Shawntae Spencer's scheduled salary. There is no hurry to get Clements to accept a pay cut, if that's the route the 49ers plan to take. The 49ers can hold onto Clements until the final cuts to determine what a fair price for his services would be for the 2010 season."
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune makes the case for the Seahawks to hire Floyd Reese as their general manager. Boling: "Some of the other GM candidates may be young and promising and on the way up. But Reese has actually done this and proven he can do it over the long haul. In his first season as top executive with the franchise that turned into the Tennessee Titans, he hired Jeff Fisher, who has been the head coach ever since. ... The Seahawks have the No. 6 and No. 14 picks in the first round of the upcoming draft, so this will be critical. How has Reese done in such situations? Well, in 1996, he used the No. 14 pick to get running back Eddie George, who was offensive rookie of the year and went to four Pro Bowls. With the No. 16 pick in ’99, he added defensive end Jevon Kearse … defensive rookie of the year. His No. 15 pick in 2002 was Albert Haynesworth, a two-time Pro Bowl run-stopping beast. As for that high pick? With the No. 3 selection in ’95, he drafted quarterback Steve McNair, a three-time Pro Bowl player who was the NFL co-MVP in ’03."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are interested in Jerry Gray as a potential defensive coordinator. O'Neil: "Gray is a candidate as defensive coordinator, and Dan Quinn, Seattle's defensive line coach, is also a consideration to keep on staff. Quinn also is thought to be a potential target of the New York Jets, whom he worked for before coming to the Seahawks. Gus Bradley, the Seahawks defensive coordinator last year, also has a chance to stay on Seattle's staff."
Also from O'Neil: Pete Carroll's former associate, Daryl Gross, explains why he likes the Seahawks' new coach.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com sizes up the Rooney Rule as it applies to the Seahawks' recent coaching search. Johns: "In cases like Seattle's, where a team has already identified its top candidate, the interview becomes a token effort and seems demeaning to candidates who are essentially being used just to fulfill the obligation. Yet there is another way to look at this, even in the awkward case of Leslie Frazier's chat with Seattle. If not for the Rooney Rule, (Tod) Leiweke would have never talked to Frazier. He never would have met with him for four hours, been impressed by what he saw and then spread the word to other NFL execs who might someday be looking for their own coach."
Also from Johns: Lawyer Milloy says Carroll's training camps were as hard as those run by Bill Parcells. Johns: "Obviously, I think the biggest difference was there wasn't the scare tactics that you had with a Parcells or (Bill) Belichick or someone like that. Does that mean he's a player's coach? I don't know. But when you go to the playoffs two years in a row, I don't think that's being a mediocre coach."