With a new stadium on the way and a division championship in their possession, the San Francisco 49ers' leadership has fresh opportunities to enjoy the sporting spotlight.
Those opportunities have not been missed this week.
Interviews with CEO Jed York and general manager Trent Baalke have hit the news just as the NFL was announcing five prime-time games for the 49ers in 2012, tied for most in the NFL.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News gathers thoughts from Baalke on parallels between the 49ers and San Jose Sharks, drawing on the relationship between Baalke and the Sharks' leadership. Baalke on Sharks GM Doug Wilson: "Everyone has an individual style; some styles mesh closer with others. I think with Doug and I, there’s a strong mesh. I like how he conducts business. He keeps things very private. We like to keep things really private. He’s not a guy that wants to be the face of the organization, nor am I. We like to do things subtly and behind the scenes and I respect that out of him."
Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News offers part three of his interview with York, who has this to say about the technological vision for the new stadium: "It's not putting something in there that's a hardware-driven stadium; you want to make sure it's a software-driven stadium. Smart phones in two years are going to be different than what they are today, the same with tablets. I'm not going to limit what HP, Apple, Google create. I just want to make sure that the experience is enhanced and you can use those devices to the fullest capability and beyond."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers thoughts on the 49ers' schedule, including this one about the Week 17 game against Arizona: "In two games against the 49ers last season, Cardinals quarterback Kevin Kolb attempted just one pass. He missed one game with an injury and he was knocked from the second game with a concussion after throwing his first pass. Like the 49ers, the Cardinals went after free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning. Failing in that bid, Kolb is back for his second season."
Also from Maiocco: a 49ers offseason scorecard.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee points to the 49ers' game against the New York Giants as a highlight. Barrows: "This could be the best game of the season. The 49ers and Giants are evenly matched and they meet for the third time in a year. Did the Giants target Kyle Williams in the NFC Championship because they knew he had previous concussions? Will the 49ers be avenging that still-painful loss? The fact that San Francisco has added two ex-Giants, including one, Brandon Jacobs, who wasn't always happy with his former team, only adds to the drama."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals should be "pleased" with their 2012 schedule. Somers: "They need to start fast and three of the first four games are at home. They play at New England on Sept. 16, so they won't get clobbered in the snow, as they were in 2008. The game in Green Bay is on Nov. 4, so it would take an unusually early dose of winter to impact the game."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals' schedule should help them avoid another slow start. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "The first thing that jumps out at me is something that's been different for me, is a lot of home games at the front end of the schedule. We've talked about trying to carry the momentum we built at the end of last season into next season, and you'd like to think playing at home would give us a better chance to do that."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams quarterback Sam Bradford for thoughts on the team's new offense. Bradford on having a position coach this year: "I'm glad that we have a quarterbacks coach now. Obviously, with Josh (McDaniels) trying to do both last year, I think it was just a lot for him to handle. Sometimes some of the little things such as drops, footwork, throwing mechanics kind of got put aside as opposed to putting reads and everything in front. ... I think it's going to be great for my development."
Stu Durando of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says defensive line coach Mike Waufle played a role in recruiting free agents to the Rams.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams coach Jeff Fisher as the team holds its minicamp. Burwell: "We've been through this a lot with the Rams, listening to the predictable comments of the players after another coaching change. Every time, it's the same stuff, as the team kept shifting leaders, kept shuffling the deck, kept hiring and firing, kept searching for the man with the magic touch. Fisher is the first one since Dick Vermeil to show up with a résumé that had some head-coaching heft behind it. And that matters to this group of players, who are sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers notes from Rams practice, including this one: "Jason Smith also was back on the field and he appears to be more chiseled and focused than ever. I’ll have more on Smith’s enthusiastic return to the team in a full story for the front page tomorrow but Smith wanted it known that he has used his battles with concussion to really zero in on the important things. To the point where he says the experience has been life changing."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times runs through the Seahawks' schedule, game by game. On the December game at Chicago: "This is the sixth time in seven seasons the Seahawks and Bears will play in the regular season. They've also met twice in the playoffs in that time. This is the third year in a row the Seahawks play at Chicago, Seattle winning there each of the previous two regular-season meetings."
John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune says the NFL's schedule rollout stands as the latest example of the league's domination. McGrath: "During the first week in April, fans figured to be savoring a heavenly confluence of sporting events: The NCAA tournament championship game on a Monday, the domestic opening of the Major League Baseball season on a Wednesday, the first round of the Masters golf tournament on a Thursday. And in the Pacific Northwest, what was the most talked-about story that week? The unveiling of the new Seahawks uniforms on a Tuesday."