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Thursday, August 6, 2009
Around the NFC West: Close call for Jackson

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams running back Steven Jackson is adjusting to a physical camp. Thomas: "Chris Chamberlain diagnosed the screen play quickly from his weakside linebacker spot, knifed through traffic and dropped the ballcarrier with a brutal shot around knee level. It was one hellacious hit. It just so happened that the ballcarrier was Steven Jackson. ... In those first moments after contact, it looked as if coach Steve Spagnuolo stopped breathing."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat checks in with Rams safety and franchise player Oshiomogho Atogwe. Atogwe: "I believe leaders lead by example first. That means being a professional in what you are doing, knowing your job and doing your job. And from there, other guys will raise their level of play to do exactly what you are doing."

Also from Korte: thoughts on Jackson's close call, plus an update on how Jackson is digesting the offense. Jackson: "It's really a lot of hard work on me at nighttime, to make sure I know the different formations, because I can be the 'X' receiver at any time, as well as a running back."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have generally avoided injuries despite a physical start to camp under Spagnuolo.

Also from Coats: Spagnuolo might be a sharp guy, and he is, but he won't be writing a column about emerging technology or social networking trends anytime soon.

VanRam of Turf Show Times looks at best- and worst-case scenarios for the Rams' cornerbacks.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic checks in with new Cardinals backup center Melvin Fowler, whose parents live "about 12 minutes" from University of Phoenix Stadium. Sounds like Fowler was biding his time and hoping for this chance. He said he had other offers. Also, Somers thinks Dominique Byrd has a chance to earn a roster spot after a strong first week, while Matt Leinart is showing more zip on his passes.

Also from Somers: Cornerback Bryant McFadden was back at Cardinals practice after resting an ankle injury.

More from Somers: Keilen Dykes' absence from the practice field and surrounding area could signify a more serious injury, which would hurt the Cardinals.

Still more from Somers: Kurt Warner is trusting his offensive line to handle its assignments, progress from past seasons. The starting line might play less during the exhibition season.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com takes a look at Darnell Dockett's contributions to Twitter, which are sometimes not appropriate for all ages. Dockett: "I love it to death. I speak my mind."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals' defense emerged with bragging rights following an under-the-lights practice in Flagstaff.

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind says second-year Cardinals running back Tim Hightower is noticeably quicker after dropping weight.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along additional details about Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant's back injury. Coach Jim Mora: "He came out of a break, reached for a ball, got in an awkward position when he reached for the ball and it kind of locked up on him. Just one of those things."

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks receiver Deion Branch rested his surgically repaired knee Thursday night. The knee was sore. A bad sign? Not necessarily. But it's obviously not a good one.

More from O'Neil: Seahawks guard Ray Willis tends to be the one involved in fights and scraps at practice. Willis doesn't smile when O'Neil asks him about this.

Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks are counting on Julius Jones to carry most of the load at running back. Mora on the ground game: "In the zone scheme, there's an element of patience and then burst, and it looks like all of them are starting to get the feel for being patient and then putting their foot in the ground and one cut and go. It's a work in progress. It takes a while. They have to learn how to work with their offensive line, with the tight ends, when to make the cut, the timing. But it appears that they're getting a feel for it."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks offensive lineman Max Unger passes the "eyeball test" and could project as a Robbie Tobeck type in terms or athleticism. Boling: "Tobeck was a little smaller than the 6-foot-5, 309-pound Unger. But Tobeck had far better athleticism than he was given credit for, and although he was glib and a noted prankster, you could always tell that, inside, he had the competitive ferocity of a bull terrier."

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers coach Mike Singletary has no plans to reduce contact in practices after several players suffered injuries. Crumpacker: "Having several starters out means some players are getting more reps than they normally would. Tony Wragge stepped in for Baas at left guard and Ahmad Brooks is getting time at Haralson's outside linebacker spot on the weak side."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat updates the Micheal Crabtree situati
on by saying there's nothing to update. On the quarterback front, he's still going with Shaun Hill as the favorite.

Also from Maiocco: Alex Smith is pushing Hill for the starting job. Maiocco: "Smith is healthy and throwing the ball impressively on intermediate and deeper pass routes. Hill's forte is pinpoint passes on the underneath throws."

More from Maiocco: Smith's best is better than Hill's best, but exhibition games will be critical in determining which quarterback prevails.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says offensive lineman Joe Toledo is having a strong camp. Toledo is eligible for the practice squad.

Also from Barrows: Singletary was actually pleased with a practice. That must represent progress.

More from Barrows: The 49ers have been pushed around in the past, but they probably will not cave to Crabtree's demands, which Barrows considers excessive.

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says during a chat he's a "big admirer" of second-year 49ers receiver Josh Morgan, who has so far faced no threat from Crabtree for supremacy among young receivers.

Also from Brown: Rookie linebacker Scott McKillop enjoys steady feedback from Singletary and the coaches during practice.