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Thursday, December 29, 2011
Around the NFC West: 49ers' WR thinking

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

The Seattle Seahawks signed rookie receiver Ricardo Lockette off their practice squad and promptly completed a 44-yard pass to him against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 16.

Lockette, an undrafted free agent from Fort Valley State, shined light on a path the 49ers themselves might follow after releasing veteran wideout Braylon Edwards.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com points to practice-squad wideout Joe Hastings, undrafted rookie free agent from Washburn, as the player most likely to fill the roster spot created with Edwards' departure. Maiocco: "Hastings has been studying the 49ers playbook and practicing with the squad for 22 weeks. He's healthy. And he can contribute on special teams, if needed. Those factors, along with good hands and a 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash, are apparently the reasons the 49ers believe his addition and Braylon Edwards' subtraction strengthens the team's 53-man roster." Noted: Hastings, like Lockette, would be replacing an injured, struggling reclamation project from the 2005 draft. Edwards was the third player chosen that year. The receiver Lockette replaced, Mike Williams, was chosen seven spots later. He was also struggling to produce this season.

Also from Maiocco: Patrick Willis should be available Sunday, should the 49ers choose to play him.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa-Press Democrat checks in with 49ers special-teams ace Blake Costanzo, who took out loans to pay his way through college at Lafayette. Landing a job in the NFL has helped Costanzo pay off those loans quickly, though there were no guarantees. Costanzo has been cut four times. Costanzo on what it's like: "It's at the end of camp and you've given your all -- your heart, your mind, your body, your soul. And you get a call, 'So-and-so wants to see you. Can you bring your playbook?' Pretty much, you know you're dead. I remember a lot of us were just waiting in line, waiting until our turn. When you get in there, they give you a little spiel about they appreciate the way you worked blah blah blah but they're going to have to let you go. You get in your car and you go home or wherever you want to go. I drove back to New Jersey. The first time I was so upset I didn't want to tell my parents. And that's it. You go from being an NFL football player for all those weeks to just nothing. It's a tough thing to deal with, especially when I was younger. I always had the feeling I could play in this league. After that, I made it my goal, 'You want to waive me, then go ahead. I'm just going to try the next team.' "

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford hasn't been able to fight back from the high-ankle sprain he aggravated. Bradford: "It's been very frustrating. Especially the fact that I was able to come back and play three or four games and it was getting better. It was starting to feel better, it was starting to feel like it getting closer to normal. And then after the second time I re-injured it, I never overcame that. ... It's important for me to play in every game. This is my last opportunity to play with this team this year, so it's very important for me to get out there this Sunday and just finish the season strong with my guys."

Also from Thomas: Al Harris is retiring from the NFL as a player, but not from the league overall. He wants to coach.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com expects to see Kevin Kolb back as the team's starting quarterback next season. Urban: "The Cardinals still believe in the idea of Kolb. They don’t believe Kolb’s concussion means such an injury will be a greater concern going forward, Ken Whisenhunt said, and the chance to have him in an offseason will be cherished after the ups-and-downs of this season. That goes for the coaches and players like wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who noted that Kolb and the offense were hurt when Kolb couldn’t be a part of training camp the first week because of lockout rules and his signing of a new contract. Add in the reality that Kolb couldn’t even get a playbook until his trade July 28 -- rookies like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton got their playbooks after the April draft and were able to start studying -- and Fitzgerald said the chemistry was undercut from the beginning."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson has impressed veterans with his maturity and professionalism. Adrian Wilson: "He's a professional at a very young age. He's eager to listen and he's eager to learn. For me, for a veteran, to have a young guy like that, I think that's just a testament to not only what the organization saw in him, drafting him that high, but just how he wants to get better every day and doesn't accept anything other than that."

Also from Somers: Kolb is likely out this week, again.

Joshua Myers of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who says he feels as though he became a professional this season. Myers: "The California product credits his backfield mates, fullback Michael Robinson and running backs Leon Washington and Justin Forsett, for helping in that development."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks have the makings of a top secondary with one Pro Bowl starter (free safety Earl Thomas) and two first-alternates (strong safety Kam Chancellor and cornerback Brandon Browner). The other starter, Richard Sherman, hasn't been in the lineup as long, but he has arguably been better than Browner.  Williams: "Seattle’s statistical turnaround on pass defense in one season was impressive. With one game remaining, Seattle has 21 interceptions. The Seahawks had 12 interceptions last season.Seattle gave up 31 passing touchdowns in 2010, tied for third-worst in the league. The Seahawks have given up 17 passing touchdowns this season, seventh in the NFL.And through 15 games, Seattle has allowed only 45 plays of 20 yards or more, tied with Baltimore for second in the league. Last year, the Seahawks gave up 76 plays of 20 yards or more, second-to-last in the league." Noted: The transformation in the secondary has been striking. None of the four current starters was on the roster before Pete Carroll and John Schneider arrived in 2010. Sherman wasn't even a projected starter this season. Browner arrived from the CFL.