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Thursday, December 17, 2009
Around the NFC West: 'Dirtbag' fallout

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says Max Unger isn't excited about changing positions after 13 starts at right guard. Meanwhile, coach Jim Mora said he wanted more toughness up front, affirming previous comments suggesting center Chris Spencer was lacking in that area. Mora: "If you're going to be a good offensive lineman ... you've got to be a little bit of a dirtbag. Not as a person. But on the football field. Because in the pit where all that stuff goes down, man, if you don't have some frickin' toughness, you're going to fail, you know?"

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com quotes Seahawks guard Rob Sims as defending Spencer and the line. Sims: "Everybody at this time, their bodies are beat up," Sims said. "I'm not sure. I don't see how much you can get tougher. 'Spence' has a broken thumb and is snapping with his left hand and has a messed-up elbow that is probably my fault. I'm going to have to ask Coach Mora exactly what he means by toughness. But I know my guys up in that [offensive line] room, we play with pain, we don't get much credit for what we do do, and the stuff we do bad we get ridiculed for."

John Morgan of Field Gulls says opponents such as the Texans' Matt Schaub can use Mora's frustration against him during games, as Fox analyst John Lynch suggested in Week 14. Morgan: "Schaub last played under Jim Mora in 2006. Mora was then fired and hired by the Seattle Seahawks. Schaub, Lynch, millions of home viewers and Gary Kubiak perfectly anticipated Mora's tendencies. Tendencies, we can only assume, that have not changed since his time in Atlanta. Tendencies, described by Lynch by way of Schaub, that are fixed, motivated by frustration and easily exploitable." Even Mora admitted that frustration led him to make an ill-advised fourth-down decision against the Lions.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Larry Fitzgerald feels fortunate to have avoided serious injury Monday night. Somers: "The injury is similar to the one suffered in the preseason by receiver Steve Breaston. But Breaston's injury was more severe and it took him several weeks to recover. Fitzgerald doesn't envision missing any time." Breaston missed the season opener after practicing more than the knee could handle. The team then adjusted his practice schedule.

Also from Somers: Signing veteran kicker Mike Nugent allows the Cardinals' Neil Rackers to rest a groin injury. Rackers was clearly less than full strength against the 49ers on Monday night.

More from Somers: an injury update suggesting a contingency plan should Fitzgerald not play. The team could have former fourth receiver Jerheme Urban replace Fitzgerald in the "X" position, allowing other receivers to play their current roles.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers injury notes, including one about Kenny Iwebema missing practice to rest a shoulder injury. Iwebema is fun to watch on special teams. He seems to welcome contact.

Also from Urban: Fitzgerald played through torn thumb ligaments last season.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams will start their fifth combination of the season on the offensive line Sunday. John Greco, a third-round choice in 2008, will get a chance at right guard. Coach Steve Spagnuolo on having two guards new to the lineup: "Worried is not the right word; only concerned, in that you've got a short time to get those guys ready. But we've got complete trust in the guys that we put in there. We've faced a lot of injuries and adversity, and when you do get injuries in this league, somebody else has to step up."

Also from Thomas: He has no problem with Spagnuolo's handling of guard Richie Incognito.

More from Thomas: Incognito had nice things to say about Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney following his release.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says rookie Keith Null took all the snaps in practice Wednesday while an illness sidelined veteran Kyle Boller. Tackle Adam Goldberg on Null's first NFL start: "I'm really proud of Keith and how he handled not only stepping in and doing a great job while the game was still tightly contested, but also handling the adversity. Early, Keith was rolling. He was executing the offense, he was completing his throws, he was reading his reads."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo expressed respect for Incognito.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers safety Dashon Goldon played an excellent all-around game against Arizona. Also, the 49ers had to file an injury report even though they did not practice. Left tackle Joe Staley was listed as a full participant.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Glen Coffee's decision to enter the draft cleared the way for former college teammate Mark Ingram to win the Heisman Trophy. Coffee allowed himself to wonder what might have happened had he stayed at Alabama. Coffee: "Yeah, that’s human. But it’s not something I’ve been dwelling on. When you make a decision, you always got to stick with it. I made my choice to come to the NFL, and Mark got a Heisman. That was a blessing."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb is a fan of 49ers backup Nate Davis, to the point that McNabb tried to line up offseason workouts with Davis. Also, 49ers starter Alex Smith confirms that his shoulder is strong enough to handle every throw but a Hail Mary pass.

Sandra Gonzales of the San Jose Mercury News offers an update on the 49ers' stadium situation.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers appreciated having a day off from practice Wednesday.