Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals fullback Jason Wright is retiring. Somers: "Wright was productive as a situational player on offense and was an excellent special-teams player. He missed one game last season due to a concussion. Wright was admitted to the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, and he and wife Tiffany have already moved to the Chicago area. Wright played collegiately at Northwestern." The backfield became even more crowded in Arizona this offseason when the team used a second-round draft choice for Ryan Williams. LaRod Stephens-Howling has also factored more heavily into the offense recently.
Also from Somers: a big-picture look at the Cardinals. Somers: "Both impending doom and great opportunity await the Cardinals when the lockout ends. The team needs a starting quarterback. Its three interior offensive linemen are un-signed as is starting receiver Steve Breaston. Most of the 'star' defensive players are coming off disappointing seasons, a factor in Ken Whisenhunt’s decision to hire Ray Horton as his third defensive coordinator in five seasons. Horton, a disciple of Steelers’ coordinator Dick LeBeau, will bring that high-pressure philosophy to the Cardinals. But that effort has been hampered by the lockout."
More from Somers: New rules for training camps wouldn't affect the Cardinals much because Whisenhunt doesn't ask players to hit much in consecutive practices.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says there is "no doubt" the team will address the quarterback situation quickly in free agency, according to team president Michael Bidwill.
Also from Urban: He calls Wright one of the "anchors of the locker room" for Arizona. Urban: "Wright was the perfect fit as a fourth running back with Tim Hightower, Beanie Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling. He was a mentor, a sounding board, a voice of reason for the backs and the entire team. (He was also a go-to quote in the locker room, able to speak eloquently on any subject). Wright did miss some time with a concussion last season, and for any player that can give pause, not to mention someone as brilliant as Wright. But he insisted his choice had nothing to do with concussions or bodily harm."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Kenny Easley was an easy choice as the strong safety on Seattle's 35th anniversary team. Jim Zorn: "I remember Kenny describing how he inflicted pain on people catching the ball in front of him. To get the guy thinking about him the next time, he would hold his thumbs in his fists and jam his knuckles into the guy’s rib cage. I thought, 'All right, nice technique.'" Easley's kidneys were failing during the latter portion of his career, affecting his play. Before that, he was one of the very best defensive players in the league, someone opponents considered to be as good or even better than Ronnie Lott. Easley, Lott and Lawrence Taylor came along at a time when some of the best athletes were showing up on defense, forcing offenses to make significant adjustments.
Also from Farnsworth: Career length is the primary reason Easley doesn't get more recognition as a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune takes a closer rook at Seahawks rookie safety Mark LeGree. Coach Pete Carroll: "He’s able to play strong safety and free safety. Right now, it’s just a matter of just learning the system and getting him going. Eventually, I think he’ll be able to play nickel free safety, and it helps him to learn the free safety spot first."
Dan Pompei of National Football Post sheds light on the Seahawks' plans for linebacker Aaron Curry. Pompei: "Seahawks coaches want to tweak the way they use linebacker Curry. They want to have him drop less, especially in space. When Curry does drop in the future, it likely will mostly be on hooks to the flat. The fourth pick in the 2009 draft is a more effective defender on the line with his hands on the tight end. That way, he can use his strength and length to his advantage, and he doesn’t have to think as much. Curry is a strong point-of-attack player who also could be an effective pass rusher. It’s possible he will get more chances to chase the QB as well." Curry could have more chances to rush the passer if the team does not re-sign Raheem Brock.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says the Giants' Osi Umenyiora could be a consideration for the Seahawks, according to ESPN.com's John Clayton. Clayton: "Seattle is one of the teams he's interested in. That could be the type of player at defensive end, as long as it doesn't cost a first-round pick, that maybe there'd be some interest." Chris Clemons provides a cheaper alternative. Clemons had 11 sacks last season despite playing through injury. Umenyiora had 11.5 sacks and also played hurt.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers thoughts on the HBO special focusing on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Ravens coach John Harbaugh and the Harbaugh family. Jack Harbaugh, father of Jim and John, breaks down game tape and offers feedback to his sons. Jack Harbaugh: "I'll tell you exactly what time the tape comes. The tape comes at 10 o'clock. I'm standing with the door open in the dead of winter waiting for that UPS truck to make the turn and stop at the door. Then it's down to the basement we go to put them in -- just for that feeling again to be involved with football." Jack Harbaugh coached for 45 years.
Also from Barrows: a 49ers preview for the Sporting News. Barrows: "The 49ers appear poised to head into yet another season with Smith as the starting quarterback. The difference this year is that he has an offensive-minded coach at the helm. The hope in San Francisco is that Harbaugh can play to Smith’s strengths and help mask his weaknesses. San Francisco has a strong offensive roster and a potentially good defensive one, too -- especially if Aldon Smith develops. How quickly the team can adjust to Harbaugh’s and Fangio’s new schemes will determine whether it can capture a division title in the weak NFC West."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, writing for the Sporting News, says a tough schedule could hold back the Rams this season. Thomas: "It’s possible St. Louis could play better in 2011, yet have the same record as it did in 2010. That’s because the schedule, particularly the first seven weeks of the season, could be crushing (Eagles, at Giants, Ravens, Redskins, at Packers, at Cowboys, Saints). In order to succeed, the Rams’ run blocking must improve and the receivers have to step up their play. To truly be a playoff contender, the Rams need to be about a touchdown per game better on offense. And that’s asking a lot."