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Monday, March 14, 2011
Around the NFC West: Marc Bulger's hopes

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Don Banks of SI.com checks in with agent Tom Condon for thoughts on Marc Bulger's future. Banks: "Ravens backup quarterback Marc Bulger is still trying to decide his best course of action in 2011, Condon said. Bulger will be a free agent this offseason after spending last year as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, and it's thought he could be a starting option this season for teams such as Arizona and possibly Tennessee. But Bulger also wants to stay close to the St. Louis area if possible, where his wife works as a doctor. Condon said Bulger still wants to play, and having what amounted to almost a year on the sideline allowed him to get completely healthy for the first time in years." Bulger can't be too picky on geography if he's interested in a starting job. The trip between Nashville and St. Louis is 270 miles by air and roughly a five-hour drive.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams gathered employees for a labor briefing Friday afternoon. Also: "League sources have told the Post-Dispatch that most, if not all, Rams assistant coaches will receive a pay cut under a work stoppage. It's not clear if new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was hired less than two months ago, is included in that group. And it's also not clear when that pay cut takes effect. Since there is still plenty for coaches to do up until the draft, the pay cuts might not take place until after the draft when the minicamps and the spring practices known as OTAs take place. No layoffs or job terminations are expected at Rams Park under a work stoppage. Any personnel changes will be changes that were already being contemplated regardless of the labor situation, according to league sources."

Also from Thomas: Longtime Rams executive Bob Wallace reflects on his tenure with the team, which ended when his contract expired this month. Wallace had been with the team for 16 years and was among the higher-ranking African-American executives in the NFL during his tenure. Wallace: "When ownership changes happen, even when the ownership changed from Georgia (Frontiere) to her children, people want to make changes. I wasn't surprised that there were changes in the organization. And at some point I'm sure Stan (Kroenke) will want to put his imprint on the organization as well."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this to say, among other things, about the labor impasse: "The 32 NFL owners -- a group that includes 12 billionaires, according to the latest Forbes survey -- apparently want to convince us that their league is fraught with financial peril and could turn into the NHL any day now. ... Next time I walk along the Delmar Loop, I'll check to see if Stan Kroenke is on the corner, playing a harmonica for tips. And the players want us to believe that they're the victims in some real-life sequel to 'Norma Rae.' That they're valiant oppressed workers, standing up to the evil barons of big business. Here's the deal, fellows: When the first NFL franchise goes out of business -- like some plant closing in rural America -- then let us know. When you have to accept a minimum wage with no health insurance to play football, then give us a call, and maybe we'll walk the picket line with you and fight the power."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Chester Pitts, the Seahawks' union rep, following the NFL Players Association's move to become a trade association. Pitts: "Financial disclosure is everything when you want to go backward. There has been a lot of sitting on the high horse, making the statement, 'The books never needed to be opened any time before. We've always done these deals and never had to open the books.' But by the same token, we've never gone backwards as a PA. The PA has never gone backward. We've always trended upwards because the league has grown and the league has made more money, and the revenues have gone up. Everything has gone up. Everything. So again, what kind of sense would it make to go backwards with no justification."

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks owner Paul Allen tweets regarding the labor situation. Allen: "NFL players bailed on deal worth billions, sacked collective bargaining & sued, which could take years to play out." I say: In fairness, any deal dividing a $9 billion pie would have been worth billions -- even a deal that wasn't fair to the players.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Nate Burleson's history as the team's punt returner, an arrangement that came about by accident. Burleson averaged better than 10 yards per return, scoring twice. Joey Galloway was the most dangerous Seahawks punt returner I can recall. He scored four times on punt returns and also averaged better than 10 yards per return. Paul Johns, Bobby Engram and Charlie Rogers were also excellent. They combined for five touchdowns on punt returns.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says Jedd Fisch, who recently left the Seahawks to become offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, has been having players study Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck and other veteran quarterbacks for tips, including how to anticipate throws. Jackson: "On Thursday, they studied Houston’s Matt Schaub to learn how to be more deceptive with play-action passes and Kurt Warner 'to show the ways he anticipates throws.' They see a lot of Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler, and a lot of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to learn how to control a game." Fisch coached Hasselbeck and Cutler.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along labor-related thoughts from kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals' union rep, and receiver Steve Breaston. Feely: "I was hopeful I could be the voice of reason and look for logical, reasonable answers. But we didn't make any progress throughout the week."

The 49ers' website offers a letter team president Jed York has aimed at fans. It reads, in part: "As you might expect, Trent Baalke and Coach Harbaugh, as well as their respective staffs, are working tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming draft. And, as in recent years, we will be inviting you to participate in the draft weekend excitement with our annual Draft Contest and Draft Day Party, which will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. In fact, to every extent possible, we will be operating with a business-as-usual attitude." That will be easier said than done. Labor issues will cloud every conceivable aspect of the upcoming season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says via Twitter that Alex Smith, Justin Smith, Joe Nedney, Chilo Rachal, Ray McDonald and Parys Haralson are among the 49ers players who have been working out regularly at the team's facility prior to the lockout.