NFC West: Billy Miller

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams receiver Donnie Avery recently clocked 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, an indication he's nearly recovered from serious knee surgery. Thomas: "That's nearly one-tenth of a second off Avery's personal best in the 40-yard dash -- 4.27 seconds -- but still a sizzling time. Since he's not 100 percent healthy, the NFL lockout actually has been a positive for Avery." Another positive: Avery suffered the injury nine months ago, so he'll be more than one year removed from the injury when the regular season is scheduled to begin.

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis joins Thomas in casting the Rams' continued firings of longtime employees as damaging for morale. Balzer: "At the end of the day, wins and losses will be what really matters to fans. But sometimes there's more to it than that. As Thomas explained, there is an iciness in the air, a cold feeling at Rams Park that is only exacerbated by the lockout. Good feelings seem like a distant memory."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee puts into perspective the 49ers' participation level in player-organized workouts. Barrows on the 49ers: "A group of 12-15 players, mostly those who live in the San Jose area, have been working out together. The sessions have focused mainly on conditioning, although quarterback Alex Smith has worked with a handful of receivers on pass routes from the team's new playbook. Offensive lineman Joe Staley and defensive lineman Justin Smith have been the main organizers."

Matt Maiocco of revisits 49ers assistant coaches' contract situations after the NFL Coaches Association spoke out on the lockout. Maiocco: "49ers assistant coaches had it written into their contracts that 20 percent of their salaries would be withheld immediately if there were a work stoppage. The lockout has been in effect since March 12. In August, if there is still a lockout, an additional 20 percent -- or 40 percent total -- will be withheld from the salaries of 49ers assistants." Coaches would get the money back if there is a full regular season.

Taylor Price of checks in with the team's new preseason color commentator, Tim Ryan. Ryan played with 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh when both were with the Bears.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat speaks with former Texans tight end Billy Miller, a former wide receiver, regarding 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Miller: "Greg obviously taught me so many things because I’d never played tight end, but I think the biggest thing he did was make me comfortable. Greg allowed me to do things in a progression … There was a lot of compromise between Greg and me. And that compromise allowed me to become the player I became."

Clare Farnsworth of lists Fredd Young and Julian Peterson as the only players in team history to achieve Pro Bowl status every year they were with the organization.

Also from Farnsworth: Young and fellow linebacker Rufus Porter earn spots on Seattle's 35th anniversary team. Farnsworth: "Each made the team as four linebackers were included because the Seahawks played a 3-4 front from 1983-89 and have been using a 4-3 since 1990, as they did from 1979-82. Porter also was the overwhelming choice as the special teams player with 1,251 votes -- 840 more than Young, the runner-up. Porter is the only player voted to two spots on the reader-selected team."

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean says Seahawks receiver Golden Tate recently trained with members of the Titans.

Darren Urban of says Stump Mitchell and Frank Sanders were among the former Cardinals players participating in an alumni-sponsored kids camp at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Marty Callinan of ESPN Stats & Information questions whether Kevin Kolb would fit the Cardinals' offense based on struggles against some of the defensive personnel groupings Arizona faced frequently last season. The sample size is small, however, and the Cardinals faced those groupings in part because they trailed so frequently. The team has subsequently used early draft choices for a running back and a tight end. Might the Cardinals plan on emphasizing the run a little more?

'Mortgage the ranch' for top pick?

April, 16, 2010
Ricky Williams and Desmond Clark are the only active players remaining from the 1999 blockbuster trade that featured Mike Ditka trading the Saints' entire draft, plus two high future choices, for one pick.

The trade came to mind after suggestions that Cleveland could have interest in acquiring the first overall pick from the Rams. I'd be surprised if the Browns gave up what it would take to land the top pick. Their entire draft is worth 2,692 points on the draft value chart. The chart probably overvalues the top choice by assigning a 3,000-point value, but even if the top pick were discounted to 2,000 points, the Browns would be giving up the seventh and 38th overall picks.

The Saints gave up 1,575 points worth of 1999 picks, plus first- and third-round choices in 2000, to get the fifth overall choice in the 1999 draft from the Bears. The chart values the fifth choice at 1,700 points.

The deal drew initial criticism, but the players drafted with the Saints' old picks -- Clark, LaVar Arrington, D'Wayne Bates, Cade McNown, Khari Samuel, Lloyd Harrison, Billy Miller, Nate Stimson -- didn't meet expectations in most cases.

Browns president Mike Holmgren on moving up to draft quarterback Sam Bradford: "'Look it, he's a coveted young man. To be able to go up and change somebody's mind ahead of us, you'd have to mortgage the ranch. You remember when coach Ditka did that with his picks and then he went and played golf.' Absolutely, we love the player, as do a lot of people. But in the real world, we're probably going to go in a different direction there.''

Rams become NFL's oldest team

September, 13, 2008
TeamAverage AgeNFL Rank
Saints28.04 2
Posted by's Mike Sando

A couple of recent roster moves have made the Rams the oldest team in the league heading into Week 2. The Saints rank second.

St. Louis added 35-year-old receiver Eddie Kennison this week. The Saints placed linebacker Mark Simoneau, 31, on injured reserve. They also parted with tight end Billy Miller, also 31.

I calculate age by averaging to-the-day player ages (as opposed to rounding down, which treats every 35-year-old the same, even if one turned 35 today and the other turns 36 tomorrow).

In most cases, older teams should be primed for short-term success. The Saints might fit that description. The Rams are coming off a 3-13 season and a 38-3 defeat in their 2008 opener.

Seattle ranks seventh at 27.51 years old on average after releasing Samie Parker in favor of Michael Bumpus. The 49ers are eighth at 27.48. The Cardinals are 12th at 27.3.

Green Bay remains the youngest team in the league at 26.06 years old, just younger than the Colts (26.13).