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Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Around the NFC West: Alex Smith's comfort

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says this isn't the first offseason we've heard about progress Alex Smith has made as the 49ers' quarterback. Maiocco: "But this offseason is different. This is the first time Smith knows the offense well enough to lead meetings, understand all the nuances of the team's protection schemes and fully appreciate the route concepts. He has an understanding on what plays -- coupled with the looks from the defense -- he has the best chances to take risks with shots down the field."

Also from Maiocco: notes from 49ers camp, where Manny Lawson remains absent.

Kevin Smith of Niner Insider says Smith appears more comfortable.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Tony Wragge is working at center with the 49ers' second-team offensive line. Also: "With Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer absent, the starting cornerbacks continue to be Karl Paymah and (Tarell) Brown. Their backups today were (Phillip) Adams and Keith Smith. Newcomer Will James is still picking up the defense and was an observer only for today's session."

Also from Barrows: Veteran 49ers safety Michael Lewis says cornerback Nate Clements might surprise people when he reports to the team after an offseason of conditioning work in Arizona.

More from Barrows: Half the 49ers' defensive starters were not in attendance Monday. I don't necessarily think this is a bad thing for the team. More in a bit.

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says Tedd Ginn Jr. had problems with dropped balls in practice Monday. Inman: "He didn't have as many drops on punt returns as he did as a receiver Monday. He cleanly fielded his first few punts and darted upfield about 30 yards. But when he failed to catch one punt near his waist, it wasn't good -- other than it was only mid-May and he wasn't in Candlestick Park."

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat details why various players weren't present at 49ers camp. Mike Singletary: "Obviously as a coach, you always want to see the guys, but it's just like last year. There were some guys that were not here last year, and I told Nate and Shawntae, 'Hey, guys, you're men. You do what you have to do. You know what we are trying to get done here, and I trust that.' Some of the guys will not be here at all for the OTAs and some of the guys will get maybe half of them. ... They have to know what we are doing here, and when we get ready for training camp they have to know that the competition is going to be there, and I trust their decision making."

Also from Barber: Ginn was among those returning punts for the 49ers.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Vernon Davis appears unfazed entering the final year of his contract. Davis: "I’m here because this is what I do. I like to work."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says rookie offensive linemen Anthony Davis and Mike Iupati lined up with the 49ers' second-team offensive line.



Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers notes from the team's latest OTA session, including one about Aaron Curry's improved confidence. Curry: "I'm having so much more fun this year rushing the passer than I did last year, because this year I had a whole two or three months of pass-rush preparation. So I actually have a plan when I go into the rush and I actually know what I’m doing."

Rod Mar of seahawks.com provides photos from the session, including one of receiver Mike Williams elevating over cornerback Kelly Jennings to make a one-handed grab. Williams' continued surprising play stands out as one of the more intriguing developments for Seattle this offseason.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes what he sees from Red Bryant at defensive end. Carroll: "Of all the little things that we've looked at, trying to experiment and stuff, that's the one thing that looks to be really, really positive. We have a chance to find a lot of plays out of Red."

Also from O'Neil: Leroy Hill faces a pretrial hearing Wednesday.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says rookie seventh-round choice Jeremy Konz has moved from receiver to tight end. That makes sense. Seattle has 16 wide receivers if Konz counts at that position. Johns: "Konz is an intriguing athlete who posted some incredible predraft workout numbers at Kent State, including a whopping 46-inch vertical leap and running the 40 in 4.41 seconds. But he spent his first three seasons at Kent State as a linebacker, then suffered a season-ending ankle injury one game into his senior season after being moved to wide receiver. He gained an extra year of eligibility and came back last year at more of an H-back position, catching 21 passes for 298 yards and two touchdowns."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Carroll as saying Charlie Whitehurst has "a sense" for the quarterback position, but Matt Hasselbeck clearly remains the starter.

Also from Williams: Could the Seahawks cut Hill?

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with veteran Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy, who is looking forward to an expanded role in the defense. Milloy: "If I didn’t have a fire for the game, I wouldn’t be doing this. I don’t have to be doing this. But I’ve got a passion for the competition and a passion for the game, and I feel I can still do it at a high level. You saw when I got on the field last year, I got after it; I wasn’t backing down from any hits." Milloy was arguably the Seahawks' best hitter last season.

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks tight end John Carlson is used to change. Carlson: "This is my third year, third staff, third offense and third position coach. This is routine to me -- starting over. We have a lot of time to meet and work with each other on the field -- the transition isn't all that bad."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals running back Tim Hightower has switched agents, hiring Paul Lawrence of Maximum Sports. Somers: "That agency, which includes Eugene Parker and Roosevelt Barnes, represents several of the Cardinals biggest stars: safety Adrian Wilson, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Lawrence is listed as the lead agent for Hightower and Wilson."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says tight end Ben Patrick can relate to what rookies are going through as they get acclimated to the Cardinals. Urban: "Patrick, one of the few veterans to show Monday, tried to do his part. He went outside as the rookies were about to run when rookie seventh-round pick Jim Dray -- also a tight end -- came over to ask Patrick if he was going to watch them work. Patrick told him he came out to run with Dray and show some support."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch takes a look at the Rams' inexperience at wide receiver. General manager Billy Devaney in December: "My brothers in New Jersey, they follow it, and they'd say, 'Aren't you going to sign a receiver?' And I'm like, 'Give me a break. We have this list (of needs) that's a mile long. We're going to fill as many as we can.' " Coats: "Two wideouts acquired through the draft have yet to appear in a regular-season game. (Mardy) Gilyard, of course, is a newcomer. Brooks Foster, a fifth-round pick in 2009, missed his entire rookie season after ankle surgery." The Rams can be OK at receiver if Donnie Avery and Laurent Robinson are healthy. Keeping both players healthy will be a challenge, however. Both have had injury problems.