Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Around the NFC West: Seeking bad blood
By Mike Sando
Football fans can appreciate it when the game becomes personal for players.
For fans who invest emotionally in a game, it can be tough seeing players socialize like best buddies on the field immediately following what was, by all accounts, a hard-fought game. Bad blood courses through the most compelling rivalries.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Cardinals revisits the animosity that once existed between current Cardinals teammates Joey Porter and Todd Heap. The two are on good enough terms now. They're teammates, after all. It wasn't always this way. Bickley: "Their relationship soured early in the 2004 season, after Heap injured his ankle near the end of the first half. He hobbled to the line of scrimmage, in no condition to play. The Ravens decided to spike the ball and stop the clock. Everyone seemed to acknowledge the concession, only Porter didn't play nice. On the snap, he pushed Heap backward, and the tight end toppled over in pain. He would be gone for many weeks after and played only six games that season." Noted: NFC West teams haven't kept their players together long enough or become consistently good enough to create similar rivalries. Here's hoping that changes over the next couple of years. Having Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh in the division helps. Perhaps the 49ers' Donte Whitner can get something going with Zach Miller.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com goes back 10 years to the morning Cardinals players and coaches awoke to the 2011 terrorist attacks.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says it's tough to predict which player will lead the Seahawks in receptions this season. Noted: Mike Williams, Sidney Rice and Zach Miller haven't been on the field together long enough for anyone to get a feel. The team could conceivably need Miller to help in protection more than anticipated.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks have absolutely followed their mantra to get younger, faster and stronger. Boling: "When the Hawks open Season 2 of the Carroll/Schneider era Sunday at San Francisco, there will be more rookies or first-year guys on this roster (12) than holdovers (10) from when they arrived." Noted: The Packers have managed to win big while maintaining one of the very youngest rosters in the league. Of course, having an elite quarterback makes everyone's plan appear more feasible.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says St. Louis appears better positioned to keep the Rams in town. Burwell: "While there is no chance any politician in his right or wrong mind on the state or local level will attempt to approve a new stadium for the Rams, there is some very smart talk about providing Kroenke with something that could be just as good to a billionaire real estate developer: land. Give a real estate developer land and let him determine what he wants to do with it. While the conventional wisdom has always been that the best piece of property to offer [Stan] Kroenke would be the vacant Chrysler factory off Interstate 44 in Fenton, a much smarter play being discussed involves real estate development right downtown adjacent to the Dome." Noted: Giving away land to a billionaire will not sit well with everyone. Catering to owners is part of the game for cities hoping to keep their professional sports franchises, however.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' opener against the Eagles is just about sold out.
Also from Thomas: thoughts on the Rams' decision to release receiver Donnie Avery. Thomas: "I was mildly surprised that Avery was released, even factoring in that he wanted to be traded. I think the Rams need his kind of speed at WR. I do think the fact that Austin Pettis was a Josh McDaniels pick and a third-round pick at that, helped keep him here. And I agree with the thought that in this lockout offseason, how can you pass judgement on a guy based on five weeks of practice and the preseason? No doubt, picking WRs seems to be a hole in Billy Devaney's game, but I was told that Avery was a Scott Linehan pick more than a Devaney pick." Noted: The Rams' drafted rookie receivers were going to earn roster spots unless they absolutely bombed in camp or otherwise demonstrated they would never make it in the NFL. Avery was a one-dimensional receiver playing for a coordinator who values versatility at receiver above just about everything else.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Jim Harbaugh's presence was the only reason Alex Smith re-signed with the 49ers. Smith never meshed with former coach Mike Singletary, making clear he would prefer a calmer sideline presence, for one.
Also from Maiocco: Michael Crabtree's availability for Week 1 remains in question, as do starting spots in the secondary.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News thinks David Garrard would help both NFL teams in the Bay Area.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says Jerry Rice thought Smith would sign elsewhere this season, and that Smith will never elevate teammates' play around him.
Gwenn Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle says some of Smith's best games have come against the Seahawks.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects more blitzes from the 49ers this season.