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Friday, March 20, 2009
Around the NFC West: Size matters to 49ers

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers want Isaac Bruce to make a decision on his future by April 1. Also, Ray McDonald underwent knee surgery. Alex Smith has gained weight and weighs 221 pounds. Perhaps that will help him stay healthier. Finally, Patrick Willis might be the one to wear the raido headset now that Mark Roman isn't projected to start.

Niners general manager Scot McCloughan, writing for 49ers.com, says Reggie Smith will make the conversion from cornerback to safety. McCloughan: "Our plan right now is to move him to safety knowing that he has background from college playing both corner and safety. The best position for him on our roster, not just this year but in the future, is safety. Can he play free or strong safety? I think it can be either one. I think he'll line up at the position that gives us the best depth and competition. He will be at safety this year, but we still know that he has played corner and he can play corner so it's nice to have that versatility."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Manny Lawson is up to 250 pounds from 235. Other players also looked bigger at this camp.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat quotes Shaun Hill as saying he's more comfortable with Jimmy Raye's offense than Mike Martz's offense. That makes sense. The new approach should better suit most of the 49ers' offensive players.

Also from Maiocco: Smith has been cleared to practice with the 49ers after rehabbing a shoulder injury that sidelined him last season.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News quotes 49ers coach Mike Singletary as downplaying the reported rift between assistant coaches and the personnel department. Singletary: "At the end of the day, we'll make sure everybody is on the same page."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams like Missouri's Jeremy Maclin and Ziggy Hood. Thomas: "If Hood is still available early in the second round, it looks like he will be one of the players in consideration for St. Louis at No. 35 overall. But the Rams had plenty of company at Mizzou's pro day. A majority of NFL teams sent representatives to Columbia for Thursday's proceedings, including Carolina, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, Indianapolis, Minnesota, New England, New Orleans, the New York Giants, New York Jets and Tennessee."

Also from Thomas and other Post-Dispatchers: a discussion on whether Marc Bulger can get his career back on track. Bill Coats: "Bulger had several things working against him last year: an injury-riddled offensive line, young receivers trying to adapt to the NFL, a disconnect with head coach Scott Linehan and offensive coordinator Al Saunders, and the cumulative effect of getting pounded over the last few seasons. Working behind a decent line in a system he believes in would do wonders for Bulger."

More from Thomas: The Rams weren't interested in meeting Leonard Weaver's demands.

Bryn Swartz of Bleacher Report ranks Kurt Warner's 1999 performance with the Rams among the 10 greatest seasons by an NFL quarterback. The analysis uses a formula comparing each quarterback's performance against the averages for all quarterbacks in a season.

Jim Corbett of USA Today calls the Seahawks' signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh one of the boldest in the NFL this offseason. Houshmandzadeh again singles out Matt Hasselbeck as a primary reason he signed with the Seahawks instead of the Vikings. Houshmandzadeh: "It was just the fact when you look at both teams, Minnesota and Seattle, Seattle had the more steady quarterback play. That's obvious. They just had the better situation at the quarterback spot. And Matt will affect the outcome of many, many games. I felt more comfortable playing with Matt. He's a real smart quarterback. He's one of the most intelligent quarterbacks in the game."

Michael Steffes of Seahawk Addicts thinks the Seahawks have a chance to pocket 2010 compensatory draft choices now that Weaver has become the league-leading seventh unrestricted free agent to leave Seattle for another team this offseason.

LantermanC of Field Gulls shows how many draft choices from each position and each draft round have reached various milestones. Right up my alley. Bravo. One thing I'd like to account for would be the number of Pro Bowl spots available at each position and the average career length for each position. If we could adjust for those things, I think we'd be even better off. Either way, this is good stuff.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the Cardinals' roster with an eye toward areas that still need to be addressed. Urban: "You would expect a pass rusher/outside linebacker, given the age of some of their current players. A center is needed, with no proven players behind starter Lyle Sendlein. Given the struggles of Alan Branch, the Cards may need to look at nose tackle. Obviously, this all can morph based on grades and how the draft plays out."