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Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Around the NFC West: QB dynamics new

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers' interest in bringing back Alex Smith leaves the team with many of the same questions it faced a year ago. Some of the answers are different this time. A year ago, the team was hoping stability at offensive coordinator would help Smith blossom into a solid starter. The backup heading into the season, David Carr, wasn't part of the long-term equation. It was Smith or bust for the 49ers. This year, the team still hopes Smith plays well, of course, but adding rookie Colin Kaepernick gives the 49ers a young prospect to develop. The team has a plan beyond Smith, changing how Smith's return should be analyzed.

Also from Maiocco: Kaepernick and Carr joined Smith for recent workouts.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates workout plans for the 49ers' 2011 draft choices.

More from Barrows: The 49ers' later-round picks live modestly while waiting out the lockout. Teams would normally provide basic needs for players during portions of the offseason, but not during the lockout.

Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle profiles 49ers first-round pick Aldon Smith, who played hurt at Missouri. FitzGerald: "Smith would like to work for the Drug Enforcement Agency when his pro football days are done, giving the law a pair of extremely long arms. Friends and family members say he has a fine singing voice and plays the drums for the church choir. It's also known that his pain threshold is very high, he's very loyal to his teammates and enjoys football so much that a broken leg is just an annoyance."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says injury concerns allowed two 49ers draft choices, Kendall Hunter and Ronald Johnson, to remain available longer.

Also from Branch: The 49ers appear confident in their coaches' abilities based on how the team selected in the first three rounds, draft analyst Rob Rang said.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams tight end Mike Hoomanawanui has high hopes for the team's offense under new coordinator Josh McDaniels. Hoomanawanui was one of the Ram's more impressive young players when healthy last season, but injuries sidelined him for stretches. Hoomanawanui: "Hopefully, I got my injuries out of the way my first year and I won't have to deal with that again. It's great to get back out here (during player-organized workouts) and see all the guys and get some team camaraderie going again. Obviously, everybody knows the situation (with the NFL lockout). Hopefully, we can get it settled soon and get back on the field with everybody."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams fullback Brit Miller is nearly five months into rehab on his way back from a torn ACL. He can sprint and is starting to work on changing direction. Miller: "That's kind of the final phase of the rehab on ACLs. I hope to get a full season this year, really prove what I can do at fullback. I know (fullback) is not a huge part of what every team does, but I want to be the best at whatever we do. So I look at it as one position: fullback/special teams." McDaniels has sometimes wanted his fullback types to project as runners when needed. Miller did not project as a runner before the injury he suffered against San Francisco late last season.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Leon Washington made a big enough dent in the team's records for return specialists to rank among the best in franchise history after only one season. Farnsworth: "Washington’s time obviously will come. In one season, he broke the game, season and career records for scoring returns -- which had been one, across the board. His 253 return yards against the Chargers broke the single-game record that had been held by Maurice Morris (231), and his 63.3-yard average in that game obliterated the previous record of 42.8 yards by Charlie Rogers. Washington also produced 1,461 yards for the season -- roughly half the career total of 2,843 by Morris, who ranks third behind Broussard (3,900) and Rogers (3,214); and third on the single-season list behind Josh Wilson (1,753) and Rogers (1,629)." To what degree will new kickoff rules prevent Washington from making an impact in the future?

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle passes along comments from Seahawks rookie safety Mark LeGree, who appeared on John Clayton's radio show Saturday. LeGree: "Even if I don't get a starting spot, I'm going to make the guy ahead of me work for his spot. On special teams? I love special teams. I know how big a part of the game it is, it can change a game in just one play. I am looking forward to the opportunity to be able to start. I'm a playmaker and I can go get that ball."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic checks in with Cardinals guard Rex Hadnot, who has been working out with teammates and could replace the retiring Alan Faneca in the starting lineup. Hadnot on participating in player-organized workouts: "It's helping out a tremendous amount. Me being a guy who came in last year, I'm continuing to bond with my new teammates. It's given us all a chance to work together as a team and when you see guys putting the work in, it should give you a better appreciation of what each and every man goes through on a consistent basis to try and prepare themselves for an NFL season. I'm excited about what we're doing under the circumstances."