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Thursday, June 30, 2011
Around the NFC West: Cards' line dance

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com looks at the unsettled nature of the Cardinals' offensive line. Center Lyle Sendlein and guard Deuce Lutui do not have contracts for 2011. Urban: "Free agency will determine the path of the line. Sendlein remains a favorite of the coaching staff and figures to stay in the spot he has had since 2008. Lutui is a much bigger wild card, given his disappointment in the past to not have his contract extended and his desire for a large payday. [Brandon] Keith is a work-in-progress, but the Cards think he can still develop into a solid tackle (and he spent the 2009 season as a backup guard, so he is able to play both positions if necessary). That flexibility could help depending on who the Cards sign and/or re-sign." There were signs Keith was improving before an injury ended his 2010 season. Overall, however, the Cardinals simply haven't invested much in young offensive linemen since selecting Levi Brown fifth overall in 2007. They have not drafted one in the first three rounds of the past four drafts.

Also from Urban: Cardinals staffer Rolando Cantu recently assisted at the scene of a car accident that left a young man with serious injuries.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Chuck Knox's final season as head coach, explaining why Knox fell out of favor with ownership despite a successful run. Farnsworth: "Call it a clash of strong personalities between Knox -- who was old school, yet still cool -- and owner Ken Behring. After the Seahawks’ early success under Knox, the team never won more than nine games in his final five seasons. His philosophy had morphed into keeping games as close as possible and then trying to make a play to win them in the fourth quarter. Behring wanted more bang for his buck, not bang the drum slowly." That led Behring to push for selecting Dan McGwire in the first round of the 1991 draft, a move that never sat well with Knox.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Seahawks safety Lawyer Milloy, who is putting on a football camp for kids in the Tacoma area. Williams: "Partnering with Sports International Football Camps, Milloy hosted his first camp in Parkland this week, with Seahawks teammates Deon Butler and Marshawn Lynch chipping in to make appearances in order to teach kids the ins and outs of the game. But Milloy didn’t just pop in to show his face and talk for five minutes. He spent quality time working with kids in individual drills." Butler and Lynch also helped out. Butler has recovered from his season-ending knee injury well enough to run routes and catch passes.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says quarterback Alex Smith is taking a stronger leadership role than ever as the San Francisco 49ers hold player-organized practices. Tight end Vernon Davis: "He's more of a leader than he's ever been at this point. I've never seen Alex like this, 'taking charge' is what I call it. It's Alex taking charge. He's in the classroom walking us through everything, talking about all the plays. He's taking all the snaps. And he's really being a leader out there. That's what Alex should've been doing. But it takes time for some guys to get to where you need to be." My thoughts.

The 49ers' website catches up with former player Gordy Soltau, a candidate for the team's Hall of Fame. Soltau: "I was excited when I got traded out here in 1950. I was with Cleveland at the time when Coach Paul Brown told me, 'You can stay here, but Buck Shaw wants you so badly. I’m going to let you go if you want to go.' Then he said, 'You know you probably won’t play much for us this year, but if you go to San Francisco, you can play right now.' So I said, 'I’ll go.' "

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts on the 49ers' practices.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says draft-day stories about Colin Kaepernick using Andrew Luck as a resource never really panned out.

Eric Branch of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with undrafted center Chase Beeler, who played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Beeler: "I can tell them what my experience was at Stanford in terms of pairings of plays, particular packages that you might see -- a power paired with a particular pass or what have you. But still I have to assume the circumstances in which they’re implementing the playbook are a little different at the next level in the NFL. So there’s going to be some variance there. I’m sure a certain percentage of whatever I’m able to tell them is ultimately going to be useful, but I don’t know that I’m able to give them some kind of grand insight that’s going to bring the whole offense together."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says finding a center must be a priority for the 49ers after Eric Heitmann's neck surgery. Barrows: "David Baas, who played guard his first five seasons in the league, filled in last year at center and remains the team's top option at the position. Baas, an unrestricted free agent, attended one day of the 49ers' previous player-run minicamp -- a good indication he plans to re-sign with the team -- but has not attended the current camp. The 49ers, who have known since last year that Heitmann's status was uncertain, drafted accordingly. They selected Appalachian State's Daniel Kilgore in the fifth round and Montana State's Mike Person in the seventh round, and they plan to see what each can do at both center and guard."

VanRam of Turf Show Times notes that ESPN.com has made Steven Jackson the Rams' highest-ranked player for fantasy purposes. We've spent a fair amount of time this offseason discussing whether Jackson has lost a step and what he might offer for the future. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. put it this way earlier in the offseason: "He struggles to run away from tacklers and break long runs. And he just isn't as nifty as he once was. This sounds like I am a Jackson 'Hater,' which I am not. In fact, I think that the new offense being installed by Josh McDaniels could do Jackson a world of good, as could the maturation of Sam Bradford."