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Thursday, August 13, 2009
Around the NFC West: Cardinals kick off first

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' exhibition opener at Pittsburgh has led them to review Super Bowl video. Cardinals guard Reggie Wells: "I don't think anybody who was there thinks they stole the game from us. They earned the win. They made fewer mistakes and they capitalized on ours. Winning this game isn't going to give us that ring we ultimately wanted. But it'll be good to go back out there and bang on somebody and, hey, it may as well be the team you lost to."

Also from Somers: a few questions heading into the exhibition opener, including one about the tight ends.

More from Somers: three areas Cardinals coaches will be monitoring Thursday night. Will the first-team offense appear sharp? Will Brian St. Pierre challenge Matt Leinart? Will Calais Campbell look the part at defensive end?

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic sees good things from Cardinals running back Tim Hightower. Bickley: "There have been many pleasant surprises in training camp, from stunning crowds to Jerheme Urban's hands to the smile on Anquan Boldin's face. Hightower's sharpness and focus are near the top of the list, and possibly the most important sign of all."

Revenge of the Birds' Hawkwind wants to see how the Cardinals align on defense, among other things.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers were pleased with Michael Spurlock's handling of the Wildcat offense, dubbed the "Taser" in 49ers terminology. The Wildcat gets more attention per snap than any personnel group out there.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Kentwan Balmer and Justin Smith become inside pass-rushers on passing downs. Balmer had a sack during the 2-minute drill.

Also from Maiocco: Spurlock seems to be having a better camp than Jason Hill. Perhaps there's a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

More from Maiocco: Some accused Mike Nolan of game-planning to throw off Aaron Rodgers during an exhibition game last season. What might Nolan have in store for Alex Smith?

More yet from Maiocco: Perhaps there's a roster spot for Thomas Clayton somewhere around the league, if not with the 49ers.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Smith was effective on short passes while Shaun Hill succeeded with the deep ball, a departure from usual form.

Also from Barrows: Smith still seems like the nice guy while Hill shows his emotions.

Greg Johns of seattlepi.com wonders if the Seahawks will wear predominantly green jerseys at any point this season. The Seahawks aren't saying for sure.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times takes a position-by-position look at the Seahawks on defense.

Also from O'Neil: Lofa Tatupu and Chris Spencer were back at practice after resting injuries. Also, Ken Lucas is practicing harder than O'Neil anticipated.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Steve Vallos worked at center with the first unit while Spencer missed team drills nearly a week after suffering a sprained ankle. Spencer: "I'm lucky and blessed to be able to get out here so fast after what happened last Friday. It was real scary. With all of the offseason work I've done to get back to where I am now and have something I can't control happen, it was a little scary. But God puts his hands on me and had a good blessing for me, and I dodged a bullet on it."

Also from Williams: T.J. Houshmandzadeh wouldn't mind wearing predominantly green.

William P. Tomisser of Seahawk Addicts summarizes Seahawks-related radio interviews.

John Morgan of Field Gulls saw Seahawks rookie Mike Teel throwing off his back foot in practice. I saw Rams rookie Keith Null do the same thing -- deliberately, it appeared -- when lofting passes into the end zone.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Null is very much looking forward to his NFL debut, even if it's "only" the exhibition season. Thomas also takes a look at other rookies from smaller college programs.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Adam Carriker's ankle injury is giving Gary Gibson a chance to work with the starters. Coaches also want to take a look at rookie defensive tackle Darell Scott, who was slowed by a knee injury this week.

Also from Coats: Steven Jackson is eager to see what the new Rams are about.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN.com previews the Rams' exhibition opener. Stull: "Yes, it is just a preseason game -- the first of four and not everything will be decided with these snaps. But it is a chance to see the beginning of the rewards of the work of the last few months."