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Around the NFC West: Fitzgerald, DRC battle

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sizes up the practice matchups between Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald and second-year cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Urban: "Every pass in their direction becomes a mini-war, because they know it matters not only to them but to all the teammates that wait for the outcome as well as the fans." One battle turned into a brief confrontation, with Fitzgerald taking a stand. Fitzgerald: "I had to slam him down on his head. I am still chief when I am going against him. I didn't want him to think he was getting the best of me."

Also from Urban: Kurt Warner doesn't expect to play much in the exhibition season, mainly because that has been the approach under Ken Whisenhunt. The team's decision to give Brian St. Pierre a chance to challenge Matt Leinart for the No. 2 job gives the Cardinals reason to dedicate more reps to that competition.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' move to draft Beanie Wells has brought out the best in Tim Hightower. Warner: "I've been very impressed. He's still got strength and still runs hard, but I've seen a burst a lot less hesitation in the way he plays this year. I'm really excited about where Tim's at and to complement with Beanie when he gets back, I think we're going to have a good one-two punch."

Also from McManaman: The Cardinals' injuries are not yet a major concern.

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic peers into the Cardinals' offensive playbook. Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he's come up with plays during church.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com looks at the Rams' options without injured receiver Donnie Avery. Wagoner: "For now, the task of stepping into Avery's role will likely fall to the trio of Keenan Burton, Laurent Robinson and Tim Carter. In seven-on-seven drills on Monday morning, Spagnuolo used that group in three receiver sets, working Carter into the slot."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo singled out running back Samkon Gado for praise, stressing his versatility and value on special teams. Sounds like Gado has a very good chance at earning a 53-man roster spot if he keeps this up.
Also from Coats: Billy Bajema and James Butler were surprise combatants in the first fight of Rams training camp.

More from Coats: Mark Rubin gets a second chance with the Rams after Eric Bassey's injury. Also, Shaun Smith agreed to terms with the Lions after visiting the Rams.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receiver Laurent Robinson has a chip on his shoulder after a disappointing run with the Falcons. Robinson: "Yeah, I've got a little chip on my shoulder. I want to show everybody I can still play, and I've still got it. And I've got a great opportunity here."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo's attention to detail extends to practicing kneel-down plays.

Also from Korte: James Hall seems to have the versatility Spagnuolo wants from a defensive lineman.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says he thought Nick Reed would vanish once the Seahawks put on pads. That did not happen, a credit to Reed.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers notes from a recent Seahawks practice. Morgan: "What separates Justin Forsett from the typical undersized rusher is his ability and willingness to run inside. Teammates often looked a little concerned after he was tackled, but Force never looked worse for wear. He showed good hands and improved redirect on runs after catch. Forsett is going to play a big part in this year's team. It underlines just how foolish it was to let him go last season."

Also from Morgan: He finds tight end John Carlson to be "remarkable" during a recent practice.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks fullback Justin Griffith, a throwback player who doesn't like the label.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a position-by-position look at the Seahawks' roster on offense.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Mike Singletary is considering waiting until after the third exhibition game before naming a starting quarterback. Also, Frank Gore will not play much in the exhibition opener against Denver.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the "smart money" is on Shaun Hill to work with the first-team offense in the exhibition opener.

Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith must watch practice from the 49ers' training hill as punishment for throwing an interception.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle quotes Singletary as saying the 49ers were worse off than any NFL franchise in the last 20 or 30 years when Mike Nolan took over.

The 49ers' Web site carries a transcript from Singletary's news conference. Singletary on what he wants from Thomas Clayton: "I think it is just a matter of knowing his responsibilities -- getting consistency with blitz pickups, hitting the hole, not dancing as much, all those little things like that. He is certainly going to give you everything he has every play. It is just a matter of having it down in terms of where I need to be, my protection area, my protection responsibilities and those sort of things."

49ers.com asks Damon Huard a series of off-beat questions. Here's Huard on the best training camp brawl he's seen: "It was when I was with the Kansas City Chiefs and we scrimmaged the Minnesota Vikings in August of '04. Shaun Hill was there, he caused all of the trouble ... just kidding. It was actually started by Brock Lesnar, the mixed martial arts fighter. He hyperextended my elbow when he wasn't supposed to hit the other team's quarterback. Next thing I knew, both teams break out into a big fight. We had to actually cancel practice. I think the next day, we left early. After that, we didn't scrimmage anymore -- '04 was just crazy. You talk about brawls. It was a melee!"

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary will welcome Mike Nolan to Candlestick Park. Singletary: "The most important thing that I learned from Coach Nolan was mental toughness and character and work ethic." Seems as though Singletary was pretty well established in those areas on his own.