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Monday, July 23, 2012
Around the NFC West: $1 million mistake?

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Good morning. I'm looking forward to renewing acquaintances in the comments section after a couple weeks away.

First, let's throw out a few subjects for conversation.

Brian McIntyre of NFL.com says Seahawks defensive end Chris Clemons saw his 2012 base salary shrink from $4 million to $3 million after skipping a mandatory minicamp last month. McIntyre: "Knowing that his failure to appear for the minicamp would result in a loss of 2012 income, either through forfeiture or fines, can be taken as a sign of how serious Clemons is about receiving a new contract." Noted: I question whether Clemons knew so much salary would be at stake. Not many players sacrifice 25 percent in potential income over a three-day non-contact camp. Clemons can be difficult to read, however. Clemons changed his mind after initially informing coach Pete Carroll that he planned to attend that camp. I'd expect Clemons to report in time for training camp. The Seahawks practice Saturday.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says assistant coach Brian Schneider is pleased with his special-teams units. Noted: Analysts will measure first-round draft choice Bruce Irvin more by his sack total than anything else, but he could be a player to watch on special teams. We've seen other first-round picks around the division make impact plays in that area. First-round defensive end Robert Quinn was a threat to block punts for the Rams last season. Irvin should have similar capabilities based on his speed.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic points to O'Brien Schofield as the key variable for the Cardinals at linebacker this season. Somers: "If Schofield has a breakout season, the Cardinals linebacking corps is set up for years to come. If he doesn't, they will need Clark Haggans to play like he's 25 instead of 35, or for Quentin Groves to step up."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com lays out 10 questions for the team heading into training camp. Noted: Urban raises all the good ones. The quarterback situation is obviously primary, but health at running back stands out as one to watch. The team needs Beanie Wells to hold up long enough for Ryan Williams to make what the Cardinals hope will be a complete recovery from a torn patella. Urban: "The reality is that the Cards expect both to be ready for the regular season, enough so that the only veteran added in the offseason was Javarris James -– a longshot to make the team at best. LaRod Stephens-Howling and Alfonso Smith are the other two backs who will have a role, but the Cards need Williams and Wells. If they are ready to play, it’s a very nice tandem to have."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch raises five Rams-related questions heading toward camp. Noted: The first three questions directly or indirectly relate to quarterback Sam Bradford. That's appropriate.

Also from Burwell: serious questions about alcohol-related driving arrests involving athletes in St. Louis and elsewhere. Burwell: "This is the very thing that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell recently warned all 32 teams to be on guard for as their players headed off into the short break between the end of organized offseason workouts in June and the start of training camps at the end of July. Last month, Goodell sent out a league-wide memo specifically warning front offices to reinforce to their players about the dangers of driving while impaired." Noted: This one is worth expanding on separately. More to come.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com sees potential parallels between current San Francisco 49ers franchise player Dashon Goldson and former one Aubrayo Franklin. Maiocco: "This could serve as a cautionary tale for all franchise players. Franklin was entering his eighth NFL season when the 49ers tagged him. Goldson is entering his sixth season. Goldson wants to earn the kind of long-term contract that never came for Franklin. ... Goldson must do whatever he believes will give him the best opportunity to have a strong season. Because if he does not have a strong season, he may never get a long-term contract." Noted: The 49ers lack proven alternatives at safety beyond Goldson and Donte Whitner, but they know Goldson will almost certainly report in time for the season. And they know Goldson will have ample incentive to perform in the absence of long-term security. This situation favors the 49ers.

Also from Maiocco: It's no sure thing the 49ers will give a long-term extension to any current players before or during the 2012 season.

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News raises five 49ers-related questions heading into camp.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects Joe Looney and Darius Fleming to open 49ers camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle explains why Football Outsiders' Aaron Schatz expects the 49ers' win total to plummet in 2012. More on this later in the week.