Around the NFC West: 49ers QB loses friend

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers quarterback Alex Smith during a tough week. Smith's best friend committed suicide over the weekend. Smith: "I talked to him on Saturday, our day off. I asked him if he wanted to come up for Saturday's game. He was going to come up." Smith will attend his friend's funeral Friday, to be held in Smith's back yard at the family's request.

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune confirms news that Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie does not have a serious ankle injury. The rookie first-round draft choice could practice tonight.

Jeff Gordon of stltoday.com says Rams rookie Donnie Avery is finally back on the field after suffering a hip injury. Avery, a second-round choice, missed the exhibition opener. The Rams drafted him as a speed receiver.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks special-teams coach Bruce DeHaven on the punting race. Reggie Hodges has made it a competition. Incumbent Ryan Plackemeier is recovering from surgery.

Frank Hughes of Seahawks Insider says the offense finally showed some spark in practice today. Maurice Morris' big run up the middle gave the offense something to talk about.

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer singles out Brandon Mebane as the Seahawks' player of the day. Mebane is one player the Seahawks cannot afford to lose. He is exceptionally strong against the run and increasingly difficult to handle in pass-rush drills.