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Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Around the NFC West: Fitz, Cards work out

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald organized workouts for himself and teammates at Arizona State University. Fitzgerald arranged for former Cardinals and 49ers receivers coach Jerry Sullivan to help out. Somers: "Fitzgerald loves gathering information. He'll pick the brains of everyone around him about most any subject. So it was interesting to watch him work on routes with Sullivan. On Tuesday, Sullivan spent a lot of time with the group working on the '5' route. On that one, the receiver sprints about 11 yards or so, then quickly makes a cut to the sideline, but back to the quarterback. It's not an "out" route. When performed correctly, the route looks like half of an arrow. Sullivan showed Fitzgerald a different way to make his break, one that could pay benefits on Sundays. Fitzgerald is a great deep threat and will win most jump balls with defensive backs. If he runs this route correctly, he can fool corners into thinking he's going long. And it could give him the extra step or so needed to make a play when he does go deep."

Also from Somers: About 20 Cardinals players attended the first workout. Guard Rex Hadnot: "Fitz put the word out and guys have responded. This is what being a pro is about, when things aren’t going the way they’ve always gone, you must continue to do what you must do to put yourself in a successful situation."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks out the team's exhibition schedule. Urban: "It’s the seventh time in eight seasons the Cards have closed with the Broncos, with only last year – when the Broncos were on the regular-season schedule – left without a preseason meeting. The Cardinals faced the Packers in the preseason in 2009, when the teams completed a trifecta of meeting in the preseason, regular season and playoffs. All three games were at University of Phoenix Stadium. The last time the Cards traveled to Green Bay was in 2006 during the final season of coach Dennis Green’s tenure."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says University of Washington linebacker Mason Foster visited the Rams this week and could be an option for the team in the second or third round of the draft. Foster: "I know they're an up-and-coming team, led by a great linebacker in the middle with (James) Laurinaitis. So, I'm excited to meet the Rams, and I think it'll be a good fit for me. And I definitely know they need the help at the linebacker position, so it's just a great opportunity for me." As Thomas notes, pre-draft visits aren't reliable indicators of how a team will proceed. For example, the Rams did not bring in linebacker James Laurinaitis for a visit the year they drafted him in the second round.

Stlouisrams.com says the team's scheduled appearance in the Hall of Fame Game will be the fourth in franchise history. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "It’s an honor to play in Canton and pay tribute to the careers of our own Marshall Faulk and Les Richter, as well as the other outstanding individuals who are being inducted into the Hall of Fame this year. What a great NFL event to be a part of and a tremendous experience for our team. We are excited to kickoff the 2011 season by competing against our preseason slate of opponents as well as participating in the Hall of Fame game."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times sizes up the Seahawks' exhibition schedule. O'Neil: "The Seahawks went 1-3 in exhibition games last season, their first under coach Pete Carroll. It was Seattle's first losing record in the exhibition season since 2002. This is the sixth consecutive season Seattle will conclude its exhibition schedule against Oakland, and the sixth time in eight years the Seahawks are playing the Vikings before the regular season."

Joe Kazmar of The Record passes along thoughts from Seahawks scout Matt Berry regarding safety Earl Thomas, the team's first-round choice in 2010. Berry: "Earl is one of my favorite players. The first thing that sticks out about Earl on the field is how hard he practices and just the tempo he carries himself with. Texas is a little bit different place. You walk out and there are athletes everywhere. Earl sort of stuck out in my early visits. Then you watch him play and you see the instincts, you see the range."

Wday.com says Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley was back at North Dakota State University, where he used to coach, for an annual coaching clinic. Bradley: "I pulled up our facilities and showed them to coaches like Ken Norton and Pete Carroll, they said, 'That's better than what we've got at USC.' They said that place is something special. It’s unbelievable, the passion that the people, the community, the state have for this program. And I think people don’t fully realize that. Once they see those pictures and they realize what the program is all about, it hits you."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com checks in with former South Florida coach Jim Leavitt, the 49ers' new linebackers coach. Maiocco: "Leavitt had the appearance of a lifer at South Florida before getting fired under a cloud of controversy 15 months ago. He took a $20,000 pay cut from his job as defensive coordinator at nationally ranked Kansas State to return to his hometown of Tampa to take on the daunting challenge of creating the South Florida football program in 1997. Under its charismatic leader, South Florida played in five consecutive bowl games and rose to as high as No. 2 in the BCS standings in 2007. But Leavitt's head-coaching career came crashing down when he was fired in January 2010 after a university investigation concluded he hit a player during halftime of a November 2009 game." I feel confident saying Leavitt will not strike Patrick Willis during halftime or any other time.

Also from Maiocco: a look at which college players are visiting the 49ers before the draft.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Alex Smith has a one-year offer on the table, pending the lockout, to stay with the 49ers. Coach Jim Harbaugh said he's not concerned about fans booing every Smith misstep. Harbaugh: "Well, the question is, 'Do you have baby deer skin or skin like an armadillo?' That's where the rubber meets the road there. If someone doesn't like me or doesn't cheer loud for me -- is he going to be deep and emotionally scarred by that? I mean, most true competitors, most men like that would take offense to somebody inferring that about him."

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says a raunchy radio interview played a role in Gary Plummer's departure from the 49ers as the team's color commentator. Brown: "Deadspin.com on Tuesday unearthed a recent interview in which Plummer recounts his sexual exploits -- in sometimes graphic detail -- and tells the story of how team employees helped arrange postgame trysts for players during his days as a 49ers linebacker in the 1990s." Plummer said the 49ers cited the interview in terminating him, but he blamed his firing primarily on the team's dissatisfaction with on-air criticisms of the team. Plummer said the team warned him repeatedly last season. Plummer: "I literally asked them, 'How much powdered sugar do you want me to put on dog (waste) to make it taste good? We're 0-5. We're last in the league in offense, and we've had three players quit.'"