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Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Around the NFC West: Awaiting Crabtree

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com updates Michael Crabtree's injury situation. Maiocco: "There were encouraging signs Monday, as Crabtree was seen walking briskly from the locker room to the parking lot and back without an orthopedic boot on his left foot. It's the first time Crabtree has been spotted wearing two athletic shoes -- and no orthopedic boot this summer. Crabtree, who had surgery to repair a stress fracture on his left foot after the 2009 college season, experienced problems with his left foot on June 6 in a 49ers players-organized workout at San Jose State during the lockout. He did not take part in any of the other on-field practice sessions that quarterback Alex Smith organized during the lockout."

Also from Maiocco: Smith is getting the vast majority of first-team reps as the 49ers' starting quarterback.

Ray Ratto of CSNBayArea.com calls Daunte Culpepper "the free couch on the front lawn" as a quarterback out of the NFL since 2009. The 49ers' interest in Culpepper for their No. 3 job had not yet resulted in a signing.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Crabtree has remained engaged during team meetings, according to 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman: "He's working very diligently to get back out there, and I think he's really on top of things mentally, which is a credit to him. ...Our meetings are very interactive, and he's very much a part of those meetings."

Also from Branch: Options for veteran quarterback help aren't very appealing. Branch: "The list includes Brodie Croyle (Chiefs), Charlie Frye (Raiders), J.P. Losman (Seahawks), J.T. O'Sullivan (Bengals) and Troy Smith, who started six games for the Niners last year. The Niners could also wait to pluck a quarterback from the waiver wire."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along thoughts from Roman regarding Culpepper. Roman: "I believe that I guy like Daunte that's been around and seen everything he's seen can certainly offer the other quarterbacks a unique perspective on everything whether it be coverage, how to read a certain pass play protection and whatnot. He's got a lot of skins on his belt, so he'd be an interesting guy."

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Colin Kaepernick was exceptionally sharp during practice Monday, with Smith finishing strong following a slow start.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News updates the 49ers' push for a new stadium. Rosenberg: "After months of trying to keep the state's hands off the millions of tax dollars needed to fund a new 49ers stadium, Santa Clara has finally found the answer -- albeit one with a hefty price tag. The new plan, expected to be approved Tuesday, would allow the city to keep its redevelopment agency after paying the state $11.2 million this year and $2.7 million each year after that. That should solidify what had been a squishy part of the plan to fund the stadium, but because the state will be taking its cut of the redevelopment agency's proceeds, the city may need more time to pay the 49ers its share of the project."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Marshawn Lynch for thoughts on the Seahawks' running game. Williams: "All runners are instinctual, but Lynch is probably more than most. And sometimes the rigid nature of the zone blocking scheme can take away a running back’s ability to use his vision and feel for what is happening in front of him. But Lynch said he doesn’t feel like that will happen in Tom Cable’s system."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks kicker Brandon Coutu pleads ignorance regarding the team's unusual decision to keep two kickers on its 53-man roster a few years ago.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com offers practice notes, capped by a photo showing Russell Okung participating in a walk-through four days after suffering a sprained ankle.

Also from Farnsworth: Lynch and the art of the stiff-arm.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times thinks there's no way the Seahawks would part with second-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst going into the season. O'Neil: "The only real question about the exact shape of the roster is if Seattle has three quarterbacks on it to begin the season, which is not unprecedented recently." I would expect fewer teams to keep more than two quarterbacks on their 53-man rosters this season given rules changes involving third quarterbacks on game days.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who is looking to tighten up his game. Brewer: "Thomas has been a standout in camp. He still makes highlight-reel plays, using his video-game speed. But just as impressive is the fact that the coaches aren't on him that much about being in the wrong place. Thomas is learning when to be aggressive and when to simply be there for his teammates. If he combines his natural instincts with better football savvy, then perhaps he will live up to those comparisons to all-everything Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why the Cardinals don't feel pressure to add another receiver. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Everybody is asking that question, but I don't ever recall saying we had an issue with our receivers. You look at the preseason game [against Oakland]. You tell me how many receivers had productive nights, made plays for us in the game. That doesn't mean if there's an availability to help make our team better, that we're not going to look at it." More on this subject in a bit.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals have $13.2 million in salary-cap space, ample room to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald. Somers: "It's possible that re-signing Fitzgerald could give the team additional cap space. Fitzgerald's cap figure for 2011 is $11.25 million. A new contract could lower that. The Cardinals also could choose to front load the contract to lighten the impact in the later years of the deal."

More from Somers: The Cardinals had one of their better practices in years.

More yet from Somers: salary-cap figures for Cardinals players. Cap figures include base salaries, roster bonuses and prorated portions of signing bonuses.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Deuce Lutui is spending extra time on conditioning after reporting to camp out of shape.

Also from Urban: Darnell Dockett says these Cardinals aren't complainers.

More from Urban: Kevin Kolb's mobility is an asset, but not necessarily a defining one.

More yet from Urban: a look at the competition for roster spots among backup quarterbacks, with a funny quote from Richard Bartel.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at what linebacker Brady Poppinga brings to the Rams. Poppinga: "They called me 'The Hammer' up in Green Bay and they did that for a reason. I'm a physical guy. I'm not one to tiptoe in any kind of situations where the run is coming at me. I'm extremely physical at the point of attack, and so I bring an element to this defense they haven't had for a couple years. Yeah, I'm a very sound run stopper. That is my strength." Just about every move the Rams made on defense in free agency was designed to upgrade the run defense.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers a Rams injury update. Also, Ben Leber worked in both outside linebacker spots.

Also from Wagoner: a look at the competition for starting spots at outside linebacker. Wagoner: "In Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Colts, the Rams started incumbent Na’il Diggs on the strong side with Bryan Kehl (who started a game last season) on the weak side. With Laurinaitis out, Josh Hull stepped in for the start in the middle. Diggs is a proven commodity and played just six snaps in an effort to help preserve him some for the season. Kehl played about 15 snaps. But the Rams made a concerted effort to get a look at two of their newest additions while the other watched from the sidelines."

More from Wagoner: injuries are affecting the Rams' depth at cornerback.