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Friday, January 1, 2010
Around the NFC West: Cards' strategy

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Giants-Vikings outcome will influence the Cardinals' approach against Green Bay. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "It’s going to depend on what happens in the game before us, no doubt. We’ll obviously make some decisions based on how the Minnesota-Giants game goes, not only with the health of our players but certain other players. That will factor into it. You have to be smart in this game and make sure you err to the side of having a healthy team heading into the playoffs."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' defense is racking up sacks. Urban: "As a defense, the Cards have 42 sacks, tied for third in the NFL and three off the league lead. It’s the franchise’s third-highest total ever, behind the 59 achieved in 1983 and the 55 in 1984. It’s the team’s highest total since moving to Arizona."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was "honored" to be named a Pro Bowl player this season. Rodgers-Cromartie: "When I first got the call, I thought it was a joke," he said. "I thought I had a good year, but I didn't think it was good enough for the Pro Bowl. As the day went on, I realized I was really in and I just put my head down and gave thanks to the Lord. It's a blessing and an honor to be named with those guys."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Packers-Cardinals game sold enough tickets to appear on local television.

Also from Somers: Cardinals playoff tickets go on sale to Arizona residents Monday. Outsiders cannot purchase them until Tuesday. Also, Whisenhunt says he hopes the Rams select a quarterback instead of defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, assuming the Rams pick first overall.

More from Somers: a scouting report on the Packers-Cardinals matchup, including this tidbit: "If the Packers hold the Cardinals to no more than 77 rushing yards, they will set a franchise record for fewest yards allowed in a 16-game season. The Packers rank first in the NFL against the run. The Cardinals' run game has improved over the second half of the season, and they might not take many chances with the pass if a No. 2 playoff seed isn't on the line. It can be tough to run against a 3-4 defense, and Packers nose tackle Ryan Pickett and ends Johnny Jolly and Cullen Jenkins have played well."

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says guard Rob Sims would like to return for another season with the Seahawks. Sims: "I feel like I've put enough out there to show everybody, even whoever the new GM is, that I want to be here. That I'm part of this team and I'm a company guy. Who knows? I might think about it a little bit, but I'm not ready to leave Qwest Field. And I don't think I will. But we'll see. It's not up to me anymore."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Matt Hasselbeck followed Mike Holmgren as the Steve Largent Award winner. Hasselbeck: "I thought there were more deserving people this year, but it’s a very cool trophy and I’ll find a place for it. It’s a special honor. And they opened it up to coaches as well, so it’s more competition. And it’s voted on by your teammates, so that’s very important."

Also from Williams: "In his last 20 games, Hasselbeck has thrown for 21 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Seattle is 6-15 during that stretch. That’s the worst record for the Seahawks over two seasons since they won eight games over the 1992 (2-14) and 1993 (6-10) seasons."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo had no plans to celebrate New Year's Eve.

Also from Thomas: Will this be Leonard Little's final game with the Rams? Thomas: "Little leads the Rams in sacks this season (6 1/2) and remains the team's best pass rusher. There's a chance the Rams could ask him back for 2010 but in a limited role as a situational pass rusher. Little will return to his offseason home in Charlotte, N.C., for a while before reaching a decision."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams rookie linebacker James Laurinaitis. Veteran teammate Leonard Little: "They put a lot of pressure on him coming into this season; he's basically our quarterback on defense," Little said. "Guys respect him for learning it all as quick as he did. He was given the keys to a car, and he drove it pretty good."

Also from Coats: a look at the Rams' 2009 draft choices.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat checks in with Spagnuolo as the Rams head into Fan Appreciation Day. The Rams have plans to give extra playing time to younger players Sunday. They will play to win the game first.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, who hopes Alex Smith's analytical side gives way to maverick instincts. Raye: "You need a certain amount of maverick in you to really embrace the position."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Isaac Bruce continues to miss practice even though the team plans for him to suit up one last time Sunday. Bruce probably will not play much.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Raye's comments about Smith are similar to what Smith's college coach, Urban Meyer, said in 2005. Raye: "We have to wean him off that exactness. There is a fluidity of play that's involved at the position. And I think the more he plays, that will take over. He will play better, faster, the more he plays."

Also from Brown: Vernon Davis has done away with his dreads because he wants a new look.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers had only one offensive coordinator -- Greg Knapp, now with Seattle -- return for more than one season in the role during the first decade of the 2000s.

Also from Crumpacker: There's no way Bruce will start against the Rams, Raye suggests.

More from Crumpacker: a look inside the 49ers' new dining facility.