NFC West: Bob Wallace

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have not been notified of any plans to rename Qwest Field following a merger between Qwest and CenturyLink. The current name is corporate, of course, but it has become ingrained enough to evoke strong feelings among fans. The stadium was called Seahawks Stadium when it opened for the 2002 season. O'Neil: "In 2008, Safeco was acquired by Liberty Mutual Group, but the name of the Mariners' stadium remained Safeco Field. However, CenturyLink does have a presence in Washington that predates the merger with an office located in Gig Harbor."

John McGrath of the Tacoma News Tribune explains the Qwest phenomenon: "The stadium name with the silly spelling has grown on me. It’s got an identity so vivid, even the downtown Seattle cab drivers understand 'Qwest Field,' especially if you add: 'For the football game, where all the traffic is. Three blocks away is close enough.' CenturyLink sounds like a industrial company that manufactures ugly fences separating old tires and crab grass from the sidewalk. Then I see those words cramped together with the capital letter in the middle -- CenturyLink -- and I need some space."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic updates the Cardinals' efforts to renew and sell season-ticket packages. The team, like the league, is proceeding as though the regular season will begin on time. I'd be curious to know the retention rate for the Cardinals in a tough economy and following a 5-11 season. Somers: "The Cardinals don't disclose the number of people on their season-ticket waiting list but say it's in the thousands."

Also from Somers: a look at Pro Football Focus analysis showing a lack of elusiveness from Cardinals running back Beanie Wells. Said analyst Sam Monson: "As I'm sure you know, the Cardinals' run blocking is pretty poor. When a halfback starts to lose confidence in the blocking, he'll start to hesitate behind the line, look to bounce runs outside and away from designed holes, and generally makes everybody look worse. Also, as you pointed out, the Cardinals poor QB play will have been a factor. Teams didn't respect the passing game at all, and they were able to key in on the running back. It's not all Wells, and this probably isn't a fair comparison, (but) Adrian Peterson has graded out much better in the past with similar problems." Peterson is better, obviously, but he also hasn't played a full season with Derek Anderson, Max Hall and John Skelton as his quarterbacks, or for a team that has struggled so badly on defense.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says during a chat that he gets no sense new Rams owner Stan Kroenke is preparing a big shakeup that would affect general manager Billy Devaney or top executive Kevin Demoff. Thomas suggests both would likely remain even if Kroenke hired a team president. Thomas: "My strong sense is that neither Devaney nor Demoff is in any kind of job jeopardy. If Kroenke brings in HIS guy, I think it will be as someone to oversee the day-to-day operations. Keep in mind, Demoff essentially has replaced three people (John Shaw, Jay Zygmunt and Bob Wallace) so you could make a case that the Rams are a little light on upper management."

Also from Thomas: Devaney explains what he said to James Carville after the political commentator said he thought the 2012 Republican presidential field looked as bad as the NFC West. Devaney: "If I wasn't working in the NFC West, it's a great line. ... Here we're sitting in this big hall, you got owners, head coaches, general managers, and they're laughing their (rear ends) off. So you know, it burns you a little bit. And I care about my team. ... I said, 'Carville.' He came over and said, 'Hey, how are you?' I said, 'I'm Billy Devaney. I work for the Rams in the NFC West. And that comment about the NFC West, you can take it and shove it up your (rear end).'"

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has the 49ers selecting LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson in his updated mock draft. Maiocco: "Nice size, great speed ... huge need."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Von Miller's visit with the 49ers is scheduled for April 13-14. Barrows: "The 49ers also have a visit scheduled with North Carolina's Ryan Taylor on April 6 and 7. Taylor is a 6-4, 250-pound fullback/H-back, who is intriguing as a receiver out of the backfield. Last season, Taylor caught 36 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns. The 49ers are interested in fullbacks, which were a big part of Jim Harbaugh's Stanford offense. Running backs coach Tom Rathman spent a long time with Stanford fullback Owen Marecic at that school's pro day last week."

Andrew S. Ross of the San Francisco Chronicle says Santa Clara is acting in the interests of a new 49ers stadium in defiance of California Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to strike down publicly funded redevelopment groups. Ross: "In an ad hoc meeting Monday night, the Santa Clara City Council voted to transfer $4 million in redevelopment agency funds to a San Francisco 49er entity, Forty Niners Stadium LLC, for 'make ready' work on a new 49er stadium that may never get built."

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider looks at the 49ers' tight ends. Lynch: "Now (new coach Jim) Harbaugh has possibly the most talented tight end in the league in Vernon Davis and a brilliant understudy in Delanie Walker. Harbaugh is catching Davis just when the four-year starter is starting to blossom. Davis could always pull off the spectacular, but he struggled at the mundane, like running the proper route, catching the pass, and remembering the snap count. But last season, Davis cut down on all of those mistakes."

Michael Lombardi of NFL.com says the 49ers, not just the Cardinals, could have interest in Marc Bulger this offseason. Lombardi: "The 49ers are thinking about bringing Alex Smith back as a backup, allowing new coach Jim Harbaugh to determine if he can become the player they hoped he would become when they drafted him. The 49ers must be divergent in their thinking. They are in a bad spot in the first round and must hope for a mistake from the teams in front of them needing a quarterback. The 49ers need to address the short- and long-term issues, and might even think about trying to move up in the draft to put themselves in position to acquire either Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert. However, without a mistake, the 49ers will have to rely on their evaluation skills deciding which 'other' quarterback can fit their scheme. Is it Jake Locker? Colin Kaepernick? Christian Ponder? Don't rule the 49ers out of the Carson Palmer sweeps if the Bengals decide to draft one. And I would fully expect them to make a play for Bulger once the free-agent market opens."
Don Banks of SI.com checks in with agent Tom Condon for thoughts on Marc Bulger's future. Banks: "Ravens backup quarterback Marc Bulger is still trying to decide his best course of action in 2011, Condon said. Bulger will be a free agent this offseason after spending last year as Joe Flacco's backup in Baltimore, and it's thought he could be a starting option this season for teams such as Arizona and possibly Tennessee. But Bulger also wants to stay close to the St. Louis area if possible, where his wife works as a doctor. Condon said Bulger still wants to play, and having what amounted to almost a year on the sideline allowed him to get completely healthy for the first time in years." Bulger can't be too picky on geography if he's interested in a starting job. The trip between Nashville and St. Louis is 270 miles by air and roughly a five-hour drive.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams gathered employees for a labor briefing Friday afternoon. Also: "League sources have told the Post-Dispatch that most, if not all, Rams assistant coaches will receive a pay cut under a work stoppage. It's not clear if new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was hired less than two months ago, is included in that group. And it's also not clear when that pay cut takes effect. Since there is still plenty for coaches to do up until the draft, the pay cuts might not take place until after the draft when the minicamps and the spring practices known as OTAs take place. No layoffs or job terminations are expected at Rams Park under a work stoppage. Any personnel changes will be changes that were already being contemplated regardless of the labor situation, according to league sources."

Also from Thomas: Longtime Rams executive Bob Wallace reflects on his tenure with the team, which ended when his contract expired this month. Wallace had been with the team for 16 years and was among the higher-ranking African-American executives in the NFL during his tenure. Wallace: "When ownership changes happen, even when the ownership changed from Georgia (Frontiere) to her children, people want to make changes. I wasn't surprised that there were changes in the organization. And at some point I'm sure Stan (Kroenke) will want to put his imprint on the organization as well."

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has this to say, among other things, about the labor impasse: "The 32 NFL owners -- a group that includes 12 billionaires, according to the latest Forbes survey -- apparently want to convince us that their league is fraught with financial peril and could turn into the NHL any day now. ... Next time I walk along the Delmar Loop, I'll check to see if Stan Kroenke is on the corner, playing a harmonica for tips. And the players want us to believe that they're the victims in some real-life sequel to 'Norma Rae.' That they're valiant oppressed workers, standing up to the evil barons of big business. Here's the deal, fellows: When the first NFL franchise goes out of business -- like some plant closing in rural America -- then let us know. When you have to accept a minimum wage with no health insurance to play football, then give us a call, and maybe we'll walk the picket line with you and fight the power."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Chester Pitts, the Seahawks' union rep, following the NFL Players Association's move to become a trade association. Pitts: "Financial disclosure is everything when you want to go backward. There has been a lot of sitting on the high horse, making the statement, 'The books never needed to be opened any time before. We've always done these deals and never had to open the books.' But by the same token, we've never gone backwards as a PA. The PA has never gone backward. We've always trended upwards because the league has grown and the league has made more money, and the revenues have gone up. Everything has gone up. Everything. So again, what kind of sense would it make to go backwards with no justification."

Also from O'Neil: Seahawks owner Paul Allen tweets regarding the labor situation. Allen: "NFL players bailed on deal worth billions, sacked collective bargaining & sued, which could take years to play out." I say: In fairness, any deal dividing a $9 billion pie would have been worth billions -- even a deal that wasn't fair to the players.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Nate Burleson's history as the team's punt returner, an arrangement that came about by accident. Burleson averaged better than 10 yards per return, scoring twice. Joey Galloway was the most dangerous Seahawks punt returner I can recall. He scored four times on punt returns and also averaged better than 10 yards per return. Paul Johns, Bobby Engram and Charlie Rogers were also excellent. They combined for five touchdowns on punt returns.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald says Jedd Fisch, who recently left the Seahawks to become offensive coordinator at the University of Miami, has been having players study Kurt Warner, Matt Hasselbeck and other veteran quarterbacks for tips, including how to anticipate throws. Jackson: "On Thursday, they studied Houston’s Matt Schaub to learn how to be more deceptive with play-action passes and Kurt Warner 'to show the ways he anticipates throws.' They see a lot of Matt Hasselbeck and Jay Cutler, and a lot of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to learn how to control a game." Fisch coached Hasselbeck and Cutler.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic passes along labor-related thoughts from kicker Jay Feely, the Cardinals' union rep, and receiver Steve Breaston. Feely: "I was hopeful I could be the voice of reason and look for logical, reasonable answers. But we didn't make any progress throughout the week."

The 49ers' website offers a letter team president Jed York has aimed at fans. It reads, in part: "As you might expect, Trent Baalke and Coach Harbaugh, as well as their respective staffs, are working tirelessly to prepare for the upcoming draft. And, as in recent years, we will be inviting you to participate in the draft weekend excitement with our annual Draft Contest and Draft Day Party, which will be held on Thursday, April 28, 2011 at the Santa Clara Convention Center. In fact, to every extent possible, we will be operating with a business-as-usual attitude." That will be easier said than done. Labor issues will cloud every conceivable aspect of the upcoming season.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says via Twitter that Alex Smith, Justin Smith, Joe Nedney, Chilo Rachal, Ray McDonald and Parys Haralson are among the 49ers players who have been working out regularly at the team's facility prior to the lockout.

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