Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals might not have Beanie Wells for the regular-season opener at St. Louis. Somers: "(Ken) Whisenhunt said he has three quality backs in addition to Wells and has no qualms about going with Tim Hightower, LaRod Stephens-Howling and Wright. Whisenhunt said this summer that he sees an increased role for Stephens-Howling this season." The Cardinals do have good depth at running back, but for the second time in two NFL seasons, missed practice time before the season is putting Wells at a competitive disadvantage.
Also from Somers: The Cardinals rebuilt their defense. Kerry Rhodes: "This year, I think people are sleeping on us a little bit. We're under the radar, and under the radar is fine for us right now. It doesn't count what anybody says right now. The Jets look good on paper. Baltimore looks good on paper, but at the end of the day, it's going to be the team that jells the best and can get it done when it counts."
Dan Bickley and Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic debate the Cardinals' likely fortunes in 2010.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Whisenhunt has learned his lesson about overthinking heading into an opener. The coach thought he had too many ideas heading into a 2007 opener at San Francisco.
Also from Urban: Hightower has two 100-yard rushing games in his career and both were at St. Louis. Holding off Wells for the starting job has been easier with Wells missing practice time. Hightower seems to understand why Wells was expected to win the job this year after leading the team in rushing as a backup in 2009. Hightower: "This is a results-driven business. You can say what you want about being a complete back, but at the end of the day, people look at stats. They look for results, and that’s one thing I haven’t had. I haven’t rushed for 1,000 yards, I haven’t been to a Pro Bowl. From an outside perspective, you’re not looking for, 'Oh, this guy blocks well on third downs.' Or. 'He does the intangibles,' or 'He does the things that help the team win.' You’re looking for stats. You understand where they are coming from. But from my perspective, I know what I have to do."
Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports looks at Max Hall's outlook heading into his first NFL season. Farrar: "Hall had two advantages to draw from when he did get to the NFL level -- his uncle is former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Danny White, and the West Coast Offense he ran at BYU gave him an impressive ability to read more complex defenses quickly. While he's been talking to and getting help from White since his high school days, Hall said that the real football education came in college. Unlike many spread-happy quarterbacks, Hall played exclusively under center in high school and only started running shotgun snaps after a semester at Arizona State, his two-year mission, and his eventual transfer to BYU."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says James Laurinaitis is the leader of the Rams' defense even though teammates did not vote him as captain. Laurinaitis makes the defensive calls. Laurinaitis: "I like the role of being in control, because I think it holds you to a higher level of accountability. And when you have that accountability, knowing that you're the guy making the checks and the calls, you can't blame anybody else. It's on you."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with A.J. Feeley, who has recovered from a thumb injury well enough to back up Sam Bradford in Week 1. Thomas: "Feeley has been working with the scout team in practice and has not been listed on the team's official injury report. Feeley can only wonder what might have been had he not suffered the thumb injury. Remember, Bradford struggled in the Browns' game, generating only one first down (via penalty) in seven series. But Feeley isn't dwelling on that; he always knew he was keeping the seat warm for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are 4-26 in NFC West games since the start of the 2005 season. Scott Linehan, Mike Holmgren, Mike Nolan and Dennis Green were the NFC West head coaches when the Rams last won an NFC West game (in 2007).
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams and Steven Jackson in particular expect to see plenty of blitzes from the Cardinals on Sunday.
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says Crabtree appears baffled by the "diva" label applied to him in recent years.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says linebacker Aaron Curry is getting work with the defensive linemen at times because the team wants to use him as a pass-rusher.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times profiles Seahawks rookie safety Earl Thomas. Thomas was born after doctors told his mother she had six months to live and could not get pregnant.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says there's no shame in saying the Seahawks are rebuilding. Teams don't like to use the word because the rebuilding message isn't helpful when motivating players in the short term.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says the 49ers can expect to see Tyler Polumbus lining up at left tackle for the Seahawks in Week 1.
Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says Art Valero is the Seahawks' new offensive line coach, with Pat Ruel taking over as assistant offensive line coach. The official team release on Ruel's hiring called Ruel the primary line coach. However, coach Pete Carroll subsequently said Ruel would be working in a support role while learning the offense and terminology. Offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates: "Yeah, Art Valero is now the offensive line coach, and he's going to have some different eyes, everyone has different ideas. You can't be someone else so we're going to go in without Alex and Art's got the job now. ... Art has been at Tampa, he has been at St. Louis. He has learned some football that has been different than Alex. You have to be comfortable with the style of the way you're coaching and your philosophy. I think the toughest position would be if we made him do exactly what Alex did. There's going to be a lot of carryover, but at the same time you've got to be yourself."
John Morgan of Field Gulls compares Mike Williams to Brandon Marshall and Deion Branch to Eddie Royal when examining similarities between Seattle's offensive scheme and the one Bates ran at Denver.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Carroll wants to show that it's possible to win in the NFL without being so serious all the time. Carroll: "Only that you can't have fun coaching football at this level and still compete like crazy and win. If there's anything that people don't understand, it's how you can enjoy it in the way that we do and still work really hard and be really disciplined."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers' Travis LaBoy will try to exploit any issues on the Seahawks' offensive line. Barrows: "Last year in Seattle, Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks each had a sack. (The 49ers had five total). This year the triumvirate will be Lawson, Haralson and newcomer Travis LaBoy. As was the case with Brooks last year, the concern this offseason was making sure LaBoy, who began his career as a defensive end, was up to speed on playing linebacker on first and second downs."
Also from Barrows: Vernon Davis came up behind Michael Crabtree and hugged the receiver during Crabtree's first media session in an extended period. Said Crabtree, whose sideline dispute with Davis during practice made headlines during preseason: "Ah, man. That's just something inside, you know? It's something I don't really want to talk about. Because it's not a problem. And by me talking about it, it's going to make it a problem, so ... It's nothing."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com identifies Taylor Mays' primary Week 1 role -- as a special-teamer, not on defense.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' rookie offensive linemen are gearing up for their first visit to Qwest Field. Branch: "Sure, the team has pumped in crowd noise during practice this week. But no one is kidding themselves. They know it can't replicate the din they'll discover when they open the season against the Seahawks at 67,000-seat Qwest Field, the place where eardrums go to burst."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat examines Mike Singletary's direct, honest style.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers anticipate a limited role for Brian Westbrook in the opener. It's tough taking Frank Gore off the field.
Also from Brown: Davis' comment to Crabtree upon hugging him for reporters to see: "Michael, good to see you, buddy."