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Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Around the NFC West: Crabtree and Smith

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Michael Crabtree's arrival at the San Francisco 49ers' player-organized practices was notable for what the receiver said about quarterback Alex Smith. In short, Crabtree would not play along with the idea that Smith appears likely to serve as the starting quarterback in the short term, while rookie Colin Kaepernick develops. The leadership role Smith has assumed in organizing workouts seems valid based on public endorsements from coach Jim Harbaugh. Crabtree could diffuse the situation by going along with the premise. Instead, he's playing into perceptions that something isn't right between quarterback and receiver. Smith previously played into those perceptions by questioning why Crabtree hadn't shown up for workouts to this point. Barrows: "When I asked Crabtree if he thought throwing with the quarterback was beneficial toward improving chemistry, he asked, 'Who's the quarterback?' When I responded, Alex Smith, Crabtree said, 'He's the quarterback? I'm just asking.' Later Crabtree said, 'Whoever the quarterback is, I'm gonna do my job. I'm going to do the best I can to get whatever he needs. You know what I'm saying?"

Also from Barrows: the newspaper version of his story on the 49ers' workouts.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says tight end Vernon Davis continues to express support for Smith. Davis and Smith have an obvious rapport on the field. Crabtree and Smith have not yet developed such a rapport.

Also from Branch: This is not the first time teammates have lauded Smith for his leadership during the offseason.

More from Branch: Crabtree, Smith and that elusive rapport.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on the 49ers' workouts, which feature Smith breaking down plays on video.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Crabtree defended his decision to stay away from team workouts to this point. Crabtree described himself as a hard worker.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com recalls Warren Moon's 1997 season with Seattle, punctuated by a 409-yard passing performance against Oakland in the Kingdome.

Also from Farnsworth: That 1997 season was significant for Walter Jones' arrival through the draft and Paul Allen's arrival as team owner. Farnsworth: "It was Allen’s leadership from the top and Jones’ domination from the pivotal left tackle spot that eventually would help carry the Seahawks to the most successful five-season stretch in club history: 2003-07, when they played in the franchise’s only Super Bowl; went to the playoffs each season; won four consecutive NFC West championships; and posted a 51-29 regular-season record."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic uses research from Pro Football Focus as a starting point for revisiting the Cardinals' performance in pass protection last season. While offensive lines are most instrumental in protection, the other six players on the field can also play roles. Somers: "I thought the Cardinals were poor in this department in 2010, especially in contrast to the two prior seasons. Running back Tim Hightower entered the season with a well-earned reputation as being excellent at picking up the blitz. He was not nearly as good in that area in 2010. It's not Beanie Wells' strength, either. The team's tight ends also struggled in pass blocking, but sometimes that's because they were matched up one-on-one with defensive ends. That's a tough job for a tight end."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com unveils Todd McFarlane's figurine showing Larry Fitzgerald reaching the ball across the goal line.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com profiles first-round draft choice Robert Quinn. Wagoner: "Steve Spagnuolo’s defense is based on the idea of creating and generating relentless, consistent pressure on the quarterback. That’s Quinn’s specialty so while he might not start right away as he learns to become a complete player from the likes of Chris Long and James Hall, Quinn will likely jump in right away in passing situations with the specific instructions to get after the quarterback."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis looks at what Plaxico Burress would offer the Rams and other NFL teams looking for help at receiver. Softli: "Adding a red-zone threat brings immediate value. The question is whether the Rams should groom the picks for the future or add Burress and take a roster spot and reps away from young players. Coach Steve Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator with the Giants and saw Burress up close in living color. He understands and has the best insight into Burress' mindset, personality and his relationship with others in the locker room and his professional acumen." The more I consider the situation, the less likely I see the Rams setting aside a roster spot for an older receiver coming off a prison stint.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams should probably stay away from Burress.