Around the NFC West: Linehan can exhale
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Scott Linehan is feeling good upon hearing news of Steven Jackson's return from a holdout. Also: The Rams say 93 percent of season-ticket holders renewed despite a 3-13 record last season.
Jeff Gordon of STLtoday.com says Jackson was in a lose-lose situation before "coming to his senses" and reporting to "honor his old contract" while the team works toward a new one. I don't think Jackson would be reporting without a new deal being imminent. The Rams' offense was not going to scare anyone without Jackson.
Matt Maiocco of the Instant 49ers says the team will start undrafted rookie free agent Brian de la Puente at left guard against the Bears on Thursday. Maiocco also has a story on veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes. Spikes was interested in learning about the 49ers' offense -- not just its defense -- before signing with the team.
Bob Young of the Arizona Republic calls out Anquan Boldin over the receiver's stance in contract negotiations. Young notes, interestingly, that Larry Fitzgerald went out of his way to praise coach Ken Whisenhunt for helping him get a new contract. Fitzgerald and Whisenhunt even went to an NBA game together. Might Boldin feel as though Whisenhunt hasn't done as much to help him get a new deal?
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are looking to draw better. Let me rephrase that. The Cardinals have actually drawn well at their new stadium. It's the draw play they're looking to improve heading into the season. Also, former Seahawks receiver Jerheme Urban seems to have solidified his hold on a roster spot, perhaps as the third or fourth receiver. Rookie Early Doucet makes his exhibition-season debut this week, but he has much ground to make up. The Cardinals drafted Doucet to replace Bryant Johnson, who signed with the 49ers and, like Doucet, also missed much of camp with a hamstring injury.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer answers readers' questions, including one about the situation at receiver. He likes Logan Payne's chances, adding: "There's starting split end Nate Burleson and Courtney Taylor, the starting flanker until either Branch or Engram can return. There's also Ben Obomanu, who isn't taking advantage of the extra chances he's getting. There's Jordan Kent, an impressive athlete who has made some nice catches but still drops too many balls -- including one in an against-air drill Wednesday morning. Payne is a tough (he's practicing and playing with a crack rib), sure-handed, can contribute on special teams and also help fill the void in the slot until [Bobby] Engram comes back."
Michael Steffes of Seahawks Addicts lays out a plan for how the Seahawks can best maximize roster spots based on injuries to Deion Branch and Bobby Engram. He favors recommitting to the run early in the season, which would justify carrying an extra running back (Justin Forsett). This would also help Matt Hasselbeck stay healthy while making good use of the one area Seattle spent the most resources upgrading this offseason: the rushing attack.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune was there when Seahawks punter Ryan Plackemeier blasted three consecutive punts off the same beam suspended 110 feet from the floor of Seattle's new indoor facility.