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Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Around the NFC West: Fitzgerald and Boldin

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports sees Anquan Boldin's extended post-practice autograph sessions as an attempt to reconnect with fans and repair a damaged image. Boldin: "You're either way too happy about what you're doing or upset. To me, it's better to be happy about it. In a couple of years, when my contract comes up, we'll see. If they want me back and we can work something out, great. If not, I'll move on. That's the way it goes." 

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Larry Fitzgerald has emerged as a Cardinals leader. The way former offensive coordinator Todd Haley challenged Fitzgerald at camp one year ago resonated with the star receiver. Haley mocked Fitzgerald as a "one-trick pony" who needed to diversify his game. Fitzgerald responded in a big way.

Also from Somers: Steve Breaston appears to be the preferred choice for Arizona as a punt and kick returner. Catching the ball is the most important task for any returner. Breaston did that better than anyone in the practices I watched.

More from Somers: Early Doucet could miss about one week after suffering a sprained shoulder in practice. That means the injury isn't serious, but Doucet missing even a week could prove costly for him as he tries to earn a spot in the receiving rotation.

More yet from Somers: an unofficial Cardinals depth chart.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says safety Antrel Rolle, a playmaker with the ball in his hands, would welcome a chance to return punts.

Also from Urban: thoughts from Clark Haggans and Bertrand Berry on the art of the pass rush.

More from Urban: Darnell Dockett prefers "nine-oh" as a nickname.

Kevin McGuire of KTAR.com says the Cardinals are fighting through injuries early in camp.

Jeff Legwold of the Denver Post checks in with Broncos defensive coordinator and former 49ers head coach Mike Nolan. The Broncos, Rams and Lions are the only teams to have surrendered at least 400 points in each of the past three seasons.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury-News says Nolan answered only one 49ers-related question before a Broncos public relations staffer ended the interview. On facing the 49ers during the exhibition season: "Um, it will different. A couple of my children still live out there so I'm looking forward to that. As you all know when you have a job, it's all about relationships and people. So if there's anything I miss at all it's the relationships with some of the people. But I'll see them in good time."

Also from Brown: checking in with 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers coach Mike Singletary challenged leaders to emerge from the offense. Singletary: "I'm challenging them every day. Until it becomes theirs, it doesn't matter. Nothing really matters until it becomes their team, their scheme, their offensive, their defense. When that happens, it becomes special." Left tackle Joe Staley says he expects to be a leader.

Also from Maiocco: New 49ers tackle Marvel Smith isn't used to competing for a starting job in camp. He must beat out Adam Snyder to earn a spot in the lineup at right tackle. Maiocco: "The 49ers are being cautious with Smith. He did not work with the team during 11-on-11 work in the offseason program. He has also not taken part in coach Singletary's 'nutcracker' drills during training camp. Smith was held out of Monday afternoon's practice."

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' quarterbacks fared well in practice Monday. Also, Glen Coffee showed good hands out of the backfield. I thought so, too.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary ordered tight end Vernon Davis to take a break from nutcracker drills Monday.

Also from Crumpacker: 49ers running back Frank Gore isn't shying away from work at training camp. He says he wants more reps to gain additional confidence in his line.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers fullback Brit Miller, who went to Panthers camp as a linebacker earlier this offseason. Barrows: "The 243-pound Miller is one of four fullbacks in training camp who are competing for perhaps two roster spots. One of them promises to go to Michael Robinson, a jack-of-all-trades type of runner who has received the most first-team snaps early in training camp. Robinson said he's been asked to do more lead blocking this offseason than he's done in the past."

Taylor Price of 49ers.com passes along a funny story about defensive lineman Isaac Sopoaga "borrowing" defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's sunglasses. Manusky had no idea where they had gone and became frustrated until Sopoaga let him in on the joke. Price: "When the team huddled up to break for individual drills, Sopoaga ran over to Manusky while wearing the glasses. At that moment everyone on the sideline began laughing."

The 49ers' Web site checks in with return specialist Allen Rossum, who counts his computer among his most cherished camp possessions. It allows him to use iChat for staying in touch with his children.

Also from 49ers.com: a look at the receiver position, minus any mention of that guy the team drafted from Texas Tech.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jerome Johnson, an undrafted free agent from Nevada, has impressed as a fullback at Rams camp. The team could save a spot for him on the practice squad if there's not room on the 53-man roster behind starter Mike Karney.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams receiver Ronald Curry is finding his bearings while playing for his third team in the last five months. Curry didn't like the way the Raiders "jerked" him around last season.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa dropped by Rams practice. Also, first-round choice Jason Smith is showing good technique and quick feet.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Rams defensive end Leonard Little expects to be an every-down player. Can Little hold up physically as such? Little hasn't played more than one-third of the Rams' total defensive snaps since the 2006 season.

VanRam of Turf Show Times says the Rams' defensive line is looking good in camp.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says Little is embracing a leadership role.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson picked off two passes during the Monday night practice. This was the most physical session of camp to this point, with coach Jim Mora reminding backup Michael Bennett of the difference between tackling and "thud" work.

Also from Williams: The Seahawks welcomed fans to practice.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks will rely more heavily upon running back T.J. Duckett this season. Boling: "So, fans, you'll see a lot more of T.J. Duckett. And I'd wager you'll like what you see out of a humble player, one eager to play whatever role will best suit the team, and a man who is focused on community involvement and the fight against cancer -- the disease that took his mother nine years ago."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Lofa Tatupu stood out during pass-rush drills during the Seahawks' night practice. On offense, the team entertained fans with a few trick plays.

Also from O'Neil: T.J. Houshmandzadeh brings high expectations to Seattle. Houshmandzadeh: "I feel like this should be my best season as far as yards and touchdowns, give or take one or two." Making such declarations before the season puts pressure on the Seahawks to get him the football. They plan to do that anyway, I'm sure, but Houshmandzadeh isn't taking any chances.

More from O'Neil: what Aaron Curry's absence from Seahawks camp means.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says new Seahawks defensive lineman Cory Redding calls himself a "man's man" for whom his word means everything. Brewer: "Redding must show that he's fully recovered from a right knee surgery that kept him off the field for seven months. Just as critical, however, is that he must move past the embarrassment of finishing 0-16 in Detroit last season. Go back to the final eight games of the 2007 campaign, and the Lions are 1-23 over the last season and a half. Those struggles began just months after Redding signed what was then the richest contract ever for a defensive tackle, a seven-year, $49 million deal that included $16 million guaranteed."

John Morgan of Field Gulls explains why he thinks the Seahawks moved Rob Sims back to left guard after Mike Wahle's injury-induced retirement.

John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Brandon Mebane was working out with a trainer during Seahawks practice while recovering from a knee bruise.

Also from Boyle: Justin Forsett is thankful to be in an NFL camp after becoming accustomed to hearing about how he wasn't big enough.

More from Boyle: Seahawks players interact with fans. A photo shows Houshmandzadeh signing one fan's shaved head.