NFC West: Brandon Coutu

Matt Maiocco of updates Michael Crabtree's injury situation. Maiocco: "There were encouraging signs Monday, as Crabtree was seen walking briskly from the locker room to the parking lot and back without an orthopedic boot on his left foot. It's the first time Crabtree has been spotted wearing two athletic shoes -- and no orthopedic boot this summer. Crabtree, who had surgery to repair a stress fracture on his left foot after the 2009 college season, experienced problems with his left foot on June 6 in a 49ers players-organized workout at San Jose State during the lockout. He did not take part in any of the other on-field practice sessions that quarterback Alex Smith organized during the lockout."

Also from Maiocco: Smith is getting the vast majority of first-team reps as the 49ers' starting quarterback.

Ray Ratto of calls Daunte Culpepper "the free couch on the front lawn" as a quarterback out of the NFL since 2009. The 49ers' interest in Culpepper for their No. 3 job had not yet resulted in a signing.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says Crabtree has remained engaged during team meetings, according to 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Roman: "He's working very diligently to get back out there, and I think he's really on top of things mentally, which is a credit to him. ...Our meetings are very interactive, and he's very much a part of those meetings."

Also from Branch: Options for veteran quarterback help aren't very appealing. Branch: "The list includes Brodie Croyle (Chiefs), Charlie Frye (Raiders), J.P. Losman (Seahawks), J.T. O'Sullivan (Bengals) and Troy Smith, who started six games for the Niners last year. The Niners could also wait to pluck a quarterback from the waiver wire."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along thoughts from Roman regarding Culpepper. Roman: "I believe that I guy like Daunte that's been around and seen everything he's seen can certainly offer the other quarterbacks a unique perspective on everything whether it be coverage, how to read a certain pass play protection and whatnot. He's got a lot of skins on his belt, so he'd be an interesting guy."

Grant Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Colin Kaepernick was exceptionally sharp during practice Monday, with Smith finishing strong following a slow start.

Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News updates the 49ers' push for a new stadium. Rosenberg: "After months of trying to keep the state's hands off the millions of tax dollars needed to fund a new 49ers stadium, Santa Clara has finally found the answer -- albeit one with a hefty price tag. The new plan, expected to be approved Tuesday, would allow the city to keep its redevelopment agency after paying the state $11.2 million this year and $2.7 million each year after that. That should solidify what had been a squishy part of the plan to fund the stadium, but because the state will be taking its cut of the redevelopment agency's proceeds, the city may need more time to pay the 49ers its share of the project."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune checks in with Marshawn Lynch for thoughts on the Seahawks' running game. Williams: "All runners are instinctual, but Lynch is probably more than most. And sometimes the rigid nature of the zone blocking scheme can take away a running back’s ability to use his vision and feel for what is happening in front of him. But Lynch said he doesn’t feel like that will happen in Tom Cable’s system."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks kicker Brandon Coutu pleads ignorance regarding the team's unusual decision to keep two kickers on its 53-man roster a few years ago.

Clare Farnsworth of offers practice notes, capped by a photo showing Russell Okung participating in a walk-through four days after suffering a sprained ankle.

Also from Farnsworth: Lynch and the art of the stiff-arm.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times thinks there's no way the Seahawks would part with second-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst going into the season. O'Neil: "The only real question about the exact shape of the roster is if Seattle has three quarterbacks on it to begin the season, which is not unprecedented recently." I would expect fewer teams to keep more than two quarterbacks on their 53-man rosters this season given rules changes involving third quarterbacks on game days.

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, who is looking to tighten up his game. Brewer: "Thomas has been a standout in camp. He still makes highlight-reel plays, using his video-game speed. But just as impressive is the fact that the coaches aren't on him that much about being in the wrong place. Thomas is learning when to be aggressive and when to simply be there for his teammates. If he combines his natural instincts with better football savvy, then perhaps he will live up to those comparisons to all-everything Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic explains why the Cardinals don't feel pressure to add another receiver. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Everybody is asking that question, but I don't ever recall saying we had an issue with our receivers. You look at the preseason game [against Oakland]. You tell me how many receivers had productive nights, made plays for us in the game. That doesn't mean if there's an availability to help make our team better, that we're not going to look at it." More on this subject in a bit.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals have $13.2 million in salary-cap space, ample room to re-sign Larry Fitzgerald. Somers: "It's possible that re-signing Fitzgerald could give the team additional cap space. Fitzgerald's cap figure for 2011 is $11.25 million. A new contract could lower that. The Cardinals also could choose to front load the contract to lighten the impact in the later years of the deal."

More from Somers: The Cardinals had one of their better practices in years.

More yet from Somers: salary-cap figures for Cardinals players. Cap figures include base salaries, roster bonuses and prorated portions of signing bonuses.

Darren Urban of says Deuce Lutui is spending extra time on conditioning after reporting to camp out of shape.

Also from Urban: Darnell Dockett says these Cardinals aren't complainers.

More from Urban: Kevin Kolb's mobility is an asset, but not necessarily a defining one.

More yet from Urban: a look at the competition for roster spots among backup quarterbacks, with a funny quote from Richard Bartel.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at what linebacker Brady Poppinga brings to the Rams. Poppinga: "They called me 'The Hammer' up in Green Bay and they did that for a reason. I'm a physical guy. I'm not one to tiptoe in any kind of situations where the run is coming at me. I'm extremely physical at the point of attack, and so I bring an element to this defense they haven't had for a couple years. Yeah, I'm a very sound run stopper. That is my strength." Just about every move the Rams made on defense in free agency was designed to upgrade the run defense.

Nick Wagoner of offers a Rams injury update. Also, Ben Leber worked in both outside linebacker spots.

Also from Wagoner: a look at the competition for starting spots at outside linebacker. Wagoner: "In Saturday night’s preseason opener against the Colts, the Rams started incumbent Na’il Diggs on the strong side with Bryan Kehl (who started a game last season) on the weak side. With Laurinaitis out, Josh Hull stepped in for the start in the middle. Diggs is a proven commodity and played just six snaps in an effort to help preserve him some for the season. Kehl played about 15 snaps. But the Rams made a concerted effort to get a look at two of their newest additions while the other watched from the sidelines."

More from Wagoner: injuries are affecting the Rams' depth at cornerback.
The Seattle Seahawks once carried two kickers on their 53-man roster because their general manager (Tim Ruskell) and head coach (Mike Holmgren) could not agree on which one to keep.

Ruskell, as a personnel evaluator, valued the potential associated with the young prospect. Holmgren, as the man responsible for winning games often decided by narrow margins, valued the veteran's experience and track record.

The Seahawks will not keep two kickers on their roster this season, but they'll be able to choose between youth and experience after signing veteran Jeff Reed, as ESPN's Adam Schefter reported they did Wednesday.

Reed's weight was an issue when the veteran kicker was filling in for an injured Joe Nedney in San Francisco last season. Reed, best know for his years with the Pittsburgh Steelers, showed up in better condition when the Seahawks brought him to their headquarters for a workout this week. The 32-year-old Reed joins a roster that has featured inexperienced kickers Brandon Coutu and Wes Byrum to this point in camp.

Reed made nine of his 10 field goal attempts for the 49ers last season. He ranked 33rd out of 35 kickers in average kickoff distance among players with at least 20 kickoffs during the regular season. David Akers, the 49ers' kicker this season, and Olindo Mare averaged an additional 5 yards per kickoff.

Leg strength on kickoffs will not matter as much now that the NFL has moved kickoffs from the 30- to 35-yard line.
This is the final item in a series revisiting relatively recent NFL trades involving first-round draft choices in the slots NFC West teams occupy this year.

Beating the St. Louis Rams in Week 17 and the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round cost Seattle 17 spots of draft order. The difference between the eighth and 25th picks -- 680 points on the draft-value chart -- equates to the 27th choice.

The Seahawks' late-season success and Matt Hasselbeck's role in it also surely complicated efforts to re-sign the quarterback.

The bottom line: Seattle's quarterback needs are in flux as the draft approaches, and the team is picking late enough to defy easy projections.

The Seahawks have enough needs throughout their roster to consider trading the 25th overall choice, something NFL teams have done four times in the last six drafts.

With that in mind, here's a look at what the 25th overall choice has brought in some previous trades involving only draft choices (player trades are prohibited during the lockout) ...

The pick: 25th overall

Held by: Seattle Seahawks

Most recent trade involving only picks: 2008. The Seahawks were in the middle of this one. They sent the 25th pick to Dallas, which took cornerback Mike Jenkins, in return for the 28th (Lawrence Jackson), 163rd (Owen Schmitt) and 235th (Brandon Coutu) choices. The trade-value chart says the Seahawks overpaid by about 30 points, or the equivalent of a pick late in the fifth round. Jenkins has one Pro Bowl on his resume. Jackson, Schmitt and Coutu are long gone from Seattle.

The price of moving up: In 2007, the New York Jets sent the 25th, 59th and 164th choices to the Carolina Panthers for the 14th pick, which the Jets used for Darrelle Revis. The trade-value chart says the Jets paid 1,056.8 points for picks worth 1,116 points. The difference equates to a pick late in the fourth round. Carolina selected linebacker Jon Beason (25th), offensive lineman Ryan Kalil (59th) and linebacker Tim Shaw (164th).

Sliding out of the round. Teams moved back from the 25th spot twice in the six most recent NFL drafts.
The chart shows which picks changed hands in those four recent trades involving the 25th overall choice.

Posted by's Mike Sando

All Brandon Coutu did for the Seahawks was make field-goal tries during the last two exhibition seasons.

Olindo Mare won the kicking job on the strength of superior kickoffs, but that isn't doing the Seahawks much good now that Mare has missed a 34-yard try with Seattle trailing the Bears, 14-13, in the third quarter Sunday. Mare has missed twice in this game.

Coutu made all seven field-goal tries during the 2008 exhibition season. He made 4 of 5 tries this past summer, with the lone miss coming in tough conditions at Kansas City.

Mare made 5 of 8 tries over the past two exhibition seasons. He made 24 of 27 during the 2008 regular season.

Catching up with the Seahawks' cut list

September, 10, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Seahawks Player Released on Cutdown Pos. Current Team Capacity
Brian Russell
DB Jaguars Active Roster
Marquis Floyd
DB Browns Active Roster
Kevin Hobbs
DB Lions Active Roster
Devin Moore
RB Seahawks Practice Squad
Jamar Adams
DB Seahawks Practice Squad
Mike Hass
WR Seahawks Practice Squad
Logan Payne
WR Seahawks Practice Squad
Baraka Atkins
DL -- --
Brian De La Puente
OL -- --
Brandon Coutu
K -- --
Dave Philistin
LB -- --
Jeff Rowe
QB -- --
David Kirtman
RB -- --
Courtney Greene
DB -- --
Nate Ness
DB -- --
Na'Shan Goddard
OL -- --
Andre Ramsey
OL -- --
William Robinson
OL -- --
Joe Newton
TE -- --
Jordan Kent
WR -- --
Courtney Taylor
WR -- --
Cory Withrow
OL -- --
D.D. Lewis
LB -- --

The tough decisions teams face in reducing their rosters to 53 players sometimes aren't so tough.

They were arguably tougher for the Seahawks than for other teams in the division.

Three of the players Seattle released on its initial cutdown to 53 players have joined active rosters elsewhere in the league. Aaron Francisco, cut by the Cardinals, and Phil Trautwein, cut by the Rams, are the only other initial NFC West castoffs to join active rosters for other teams.

Seattle's Brian Russell (Jaguars), Marquis Floyd (Browns) and Kevin Hobbs (Lions) currently reside on active rosters. The Seahawks re-signed to their practice squad running back Devin Moore, safety Jamar Adams, receiver Mike Hass and receiver Logan Payne.

The apparent drama at receiver left Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor on the outside. Kent reached an injury settlement following his release. Taylor remains available. Neither player has eligibility for the practice squad.

Defensive lineman Baraka Atkins and kicker Brandon Coutu appeared close to earning roster spots. The Seahawks once thought Coutu might have trade value. That wasn't the case in the end.
Ex-Seahawks eligible for
practice squad
Jamar Adams
Brandon Coutu
Brian De La Puente
Marquis Floyd
Na'Shan Goddard
Courtney Greene
Mike Hass
Devin Moore
Nate Ness
Joe Newton
Logan Payne
Dave Philistin
Andre Ramsey
William Robinson
Jeff Rowe

Posted by's Mike Sando

NFL teams can begin forming eight-man practice squads once released players clear waivers this afternoon.

The Seahawks faced tougher decisions on the reduction to 53 players because some of their young prospects, notably receivers Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent, had no remaining eligibility for the practice squad following an injury-plagued 2008 season.

Defensive end Baraka Atkins, cornerback Kevin Hobbs and fullback David Kirtman are also among the recently released Seattle players without eligibility for the practice squad. Receiver Mike Hass also caught some fans' attention.

The chart shows recently released Seattle players who remain eligible. Safety Jamar Adams, kicker Brandon Coutu, safety Courtney Greene, receiver Logan Payne and tight end Joe Newton could be among the candidates.

Seahawks: Cutdown analysis

September, 5, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Biggest surprise: Starting free safety Brian Russell, signed in 2007 after the Seahawks grew tired of assignment errors in the secondary, seemed to fend off a challenge from versatile backup Jordan Babineaux. That made Russell's release a surprise even though coach Jim Mora had said Babineaux would compete for the job in camp. The team went with Ben Obomanu as its fifth and final receiver, releasing Courtney Taylor and Jordan Kent. Rookie defensive linemen Nick Reed and Michael Bennett joined preseason surprise Derek Walker among 11 defensive linemen, prevailing at Baraka Atkins' expense -- a big surprise. Rookie seventh-rounder Cameron Morrah beat out Joe Newton as the third tight end. Veteran kicker Olindo Mare beat out second-year pro and 2008 draft choice Brandon Coutu in a close battle. The team cleared another spot by placing starting corner Marcus Trufant on the physically unable to perform list, helping corner Travis Fisher earn a spot among the initial roster. Keeping 11 defensive linemen meant keeping only six linebacker, costing versatile veteran D.D. Lewis a job.

No-brainers: The Seahawks also released safety Jamar Adams, guard Brian De La Puente, cornerback Marquis Floyd, tackle Na'Shan Goddard, safety Courtney Greene, receiver Mike Hass, cornerback Kevin Hobbs, fullback David Kirtman, running back Devin Moore, cornerback Nate Ness, tight end Joe Newton, receiver Logan Payne, linebacker Dave Philistin, tackle Andre Ramsey, tackle William Robinson, quarterback Jeff Rowe.

What's next: The Seahawks reduced to 52 players with these moves, but the team was expected to add veteran safety Lawyer Milloy for depth and experience.

Around the NFC West: Rams' Smith shows

September, 4, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch liked what he saw from Rams rookie tackle Jason Smith. Burwell: "What I liked the most about what Smith did against the Chiefs was how quickly he learned from his mistakes. When he was over on the right side in the first quarter, the Chiefs stacked the linebacker and defensive end together and ran a looping stunt, with the end swooping around the blitzing linebacker to the inside. A few games ago, Smith had issues with these types of games that the defensive rushers played against the inexperienced rookie. Thursday night, it wasn't Smith who got fooled on the stunt. He stuffed his man at the line of scrimmage, but his tag-team partner, Adam Goldberg, reacted a hair late to the delayed inside rush."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says both teams were "offensively challenged" when the Rams and Chiefs played Thursday night. Thomas: "Bubble defensive ends Eric Moore and C.J. Ah You both had their moments rushing the passer. At running back, none of the backups made a definitive statement. In the battle for the No. 3 quarterback job, Brock Berlin got the better of it over Keith Null, although Berlin did throw a costly second-quarter interception and their final numbers Thursday ended up being very similar."

Also from Thomas: Donnie Avery got some work for the Rams, suggesting he'll be ready for the regular-season opener after recovering from a broken foot.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the race between quarterbacks Berlin and Null for the No. 3 job in St. Louis is too close to call.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat points to turnovers as a key for the Rams during the exhibition season. They forced 12 of them.

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis says the Rams' cornerbacks stood out against the Rams. Stull: "Jonathan Wade had sack, Justin King had an interception and Bradley Fletcher was in on several plays."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says some Cardinals players are concerned after the team failed to impress -- again -- in finishing the exhibition season with an 0-4 record. Also: "The Cardinals could well make most of their cuts on Friday, a day ahead of the deadline for teams to get to the 53-man maximum. After Thursday's game, I'd say cornerback Michael Adams is going to stick. He's competitive and plays well on special teams. I don't like the chances of tight end Leonard Pope or receiver Lance Long. Pope was the last tight end used on Thursday, I believe. I think the Cardinals will take their chances at releasing Long and re-signing him to the practice squad."

Also from Somers: The Cardinals' first-team offense scored one touchdown during the exhibition season.

More from Somers: Coach Ken Whisenhunt says the Cardinals' rookie defensive backs have a ways to go before they're ready. I thought Greg Toler showed promise.

Tim Klutsarits of liked what he saw from the Rams' Victor Adeyanju. Klutsarits: "Adeyanju was all over the field against the Chiefs and while his production is going to be mostly against the run it looks like he might be a contributor rushing the quarterback this year as well."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers rookie Michael Crabtree wouldn't be able to contribute much in Week 1 even if he signed in the near future. Maiocco: "The 49ers have just three more significant practices before the start of the regular season. That's not a lot of time for a rookie wide receiver to get up to speed on what he missed while absent from training camp."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee makes the tough calls in projecting the 49ers' initial 53-man roster. He keeps Micheal Spurlock over Jason Hill and Bear Pascoe over J.J. Finley.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says cornerback Eric Green and others are fighting for roster spots with the 49ers.

Greg Johns of recaps the Seahawks' performance against Oakland.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times quotes Seahawks coach Jim Mora as saying Ben Obomanu "showed up" on special teams against the Raiders. Obomanu also caught two passes for 58 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown grab.

Also from O'Neil: Olindo Mare might have won the kicking battle against Brandon Coutu. Also, Max Unger will open the regular season at right guard.

Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times says Seahawks rookie Aaron Curry was on his game Thursday night.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune lists Seahawks injuries this way: "Receivers Jordan Kent (ankle) and Courtney Taylor (eye), safety Courtney Greene (knee), tackle Andre Ramsey (leg) and defensive end Derek Walker (hamstring) suffered injuries during the game."

John Morgan of Field Gulls credits Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn for developing and using young talent.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Among the things I'll be watching to see when the Seahawks close their 2009 exhibition schedule Thursday night against the Raiders at Qwest Field:
  • Edgerrin James. The veteran running back might not play. If he does, it won't be for long, but something is better than nothing -- particularly in Week 4 of the preseason.
  • All-out battle at receiver. The Seahawks might keep only five. Strong showings by Courtney Taylor, Ben Obomanu and Jordan Kent could convince them to keep six. Which ones? Check back after the game. Also watch to see how they fare on special teams (Taylor could return kicks).
  • Cameron Morrah. The rookie seventh-round tight end would have to beat out Joe Newton to earn a roster spot at tight end behind John Carlson and John Owens.
  • Michael Bennett. The Seahawks already have defensive ends with the ability to play tackle on passing downs. That could complicate Bennett's efforts to earn a spot among the initial 53, but he has impressed enough to stick on the practice squad if there isn't a spot for him on the roster. Defensive end Nick Reed appears in strong position to earn a spot. Update: Draft analyst Rob Rang explains why he thinks Bennett has more NFL upside and potentially more value. Audio via KJR950 Seattle here.
  • Brandon Coutu. The second-year kicker has been very accurate on field goals. Veteran Olindo Mare's depth advantage on kickoffs helps his cause, but touchbacks could carry less value if the new NFL ban on three-man wedges shortens kickoff returns.

NFL Network is showing this game live at 10 p.m. ET.

Around the NFC West: Leinart's progress

September, 1, 2009

Posted by's Mike Sando

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic
says Matt Leinart's stock has risen among fans after he passed for 360 yards and three touchdowns during the second half of the Cardinals' recent preseason game against the Packers. Leinart: "Whatever it is that's happening to me right now, it's a positive thing. There's a positive perception out there of me again, which is good, because I've worked hard to get to this point."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says receiver Early Doucet suffered broken ribs in the second quarter of the Green Bay game, the latest injury to set him back. Somers: "It's another setback for Doucet, a third-round pick last year. His development as a rookie was hindered by a hamstring tear, and he suffered a shoulder sprain in camp this year. Doucet was 'tough as nails' in coming back from the shoulder injury, [coach Ken] Whisenhunt said, because he played against the Chargers in the second pre-season game."

Somers and McManaman: Whisenhunt is "still angry" about the Cardinals' performance against Green Bay.

Clare Farnsworth of says the final exhibition game doesn't mean much unless you're battling for a roster spot. Farnsworth: "The additions of nose tackle Colin Cole in free agency and the versatile Cory Redding in a trade with the Detroit Lions shuffled the starting unit. The production of rookies Nick Reed and Michael Bennett during the preseason created a logjam. If the club can carry only eight or nine, and is worried it can’t get Reed or Bennett through waivers to stash them on the practice squad, it could cost a former high draft choice his roster spot." I can't see the team cutting its 2008 first-round choice even though Lawrence Jackson has hardly shined to this point.

Also from Farnsworth: Cornerback Kelly Jennings picked off two passes in practice. Jennings also made an impressive play on the ball while defending the Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe on Saturday night. The team could very much use Jennings to step up this season.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks do not expect cornerback Marcus Trufant to return this week. The Seahawks have given no indication they expect Trufant to be ready for the regular-season opener. Remaining on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list would force him to miss the first six games. The team will not make a decision until league rules compel them to reduce their roster to 53 players.

Also from O'Neil: a chat in which he says the Seahawks will not release Deion Branch. O'Neil: "Is a trade a possibility? The Seahawks would have to get something in return. They're not in a position where they'd want to trade him for a second-day draft pick or anything, but there are teams that are short of wide receivers (cough, cough Denver, cough, cough)." I think the Seahawks' depth at receiver looks much better with Branch on the roster.

More from O'Neil: Brandon Coutu and Olindo Mare are at it again.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks expect first-round draft choice Aaron Curry to play a couple of series on defense against the Raiders in the final exhibition game.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune shares some unlikely background information on Seahawks punter Jon Ryan. This isn't a tall tale as much as it's a long one -- 109 yards long.

John Morgan of Field Gulls lists 11 defensive linemen among his "locks" to earn spots on the Seahawks' initial 53-man roster. Ten is the highest I can recall.

Brian McIntyre of sees eight "locks" on the Seahawks' defensive line, with three players on the bubble.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Victor Adeyanju is no longer single-handedly trying to improve the Rams' defense. That is because Adeyanju isn't going through this exhibition season with a cast on his hand. Coach Steve Spagnuolo called Adeyanju a "smart" player with versatility.

Also from Thomas: Marc Bulger says he would play in a regular-season game if the Rams had one this week. There's no question he'll miss the final exhibition game to rest his broken pinky finger, however. Bulger indicated he could take pain killers if needed. Bulger: "The first week, there was swelling. I couldn't really bend my finger. But now, I can do everything. There's no pain unless, when I grip the ball and throw, there's a little bit. But it's improved a lot in the last 14 days."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are seeing good things from receiver Laurent Robinson.

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Bulger responded "tersely" in the affirmative when asked if he would be ready for the regular-season opener at Seattle.

Nick Wagoner of says Bulger threw pretty much as normal in practice. Wagoner: "Aside from one wobbly toss, Bulger appeared to be about normal. After throwing normally on Sunday, Bulger taped his pinkie and ring finger together on Monday so as to provide more support because he was throwing longer passes. Bulger says the pinky finger isn’t terribly important for controlling where the ball goes when it’s thrown so much as it’s needed to grip and hold on to the ball."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis asks and answers 10 Rams-related questions. Will this team be able to stop the run and rush the passer? Stull: "Until his recent hamstring strain, Leonard Little had looked impressive in training camp and the preseason -- regularly getting to the quarterback. But as Little is now 34, his health and ability to play every down is a question. His 6 sacks tied with James Hall for the team lead last year, both need to get to the quarterback more. Chris Long needs to improve upon his total of 4 and Victor Adeyanju also needs more than just pressure from the edge. Good news is that besides the d-line, expect a lot of blitzing from all positions in this new defensive scheme."

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says 49ers guard David Baas was back at practice after dealing with a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. Also on the injury front, linebacker Ahmad Brooks underwent an arthroscopic procedure to remove a bone chip from his knee. Brooks could miss two to three weeks.

Taylor Price of checks in with linebacker Takeo Spikes for a light-hearted look back at training camp.

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Mike Singletary is scaling back the 49ers' workload now that camp has broken. Also: "The pass-rush prowess of linebacker Manny Lawson is one of the keys to the 49ers' season. Through three exhibition games, the pass rush as a whole and Lawson, in particular, have not shown much."

Also from Maiocco: Nate Davis would be the 49ers' fourth choice to play quarterback in a regular-season game. Cutting him seems unlikely, though. Maiocco: "It seems obvious to me that Davis wrapped up a roster spot with his play the past two weeks. The 49ers selected the kid in the fifth round because they wanted him. At this point, they can take no chance of losing him. They must keep him on the roster."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary pushed the 49ers hard during camp. Spikes: "This is probably the toughest camp that I've had, simply because of just the work load, the consistency. … I'll tell you, I don't think there would have been as many people to make it through camp if the weather would have been even close to 85 (degrees)."

Posted by's Mike Sando

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers details on Steve Spagnuolo's approach to fixing the Rams. Spagnuolo: "If you stay healthy, all things being equal, to me the difference in winning and losing would be the details. It's not a cliché. I'm not trying to make anything up; I just firmly believe that. Because you put two equal teams out there, it's going to be the team that's detailed, focused, doesn't make any mistakes, etc., etc., etc., that's going to win the game."

Also from Thomas: The Rams are committed to the run, no question.

More from Thomas: He predicts a 6-10 record and a Week 4 victory over the 49ers.

Still more from Thomas: breaking down the Rams' offense.

More yet from Thomas: breaking down the Rams' defense.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have a new style under their new coach. Burwell: "The change in personality is going to be a stark transformation in style and substance from the one that characterized the rise and fall of this franchise. In the past, very few football wise guys ever associated toughness with the Rams. That didn't matter much during the height of the Greatest Show on Turf days when the Rams dazzled you with all that fast-twitch athleticism dashing up and down the field."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says Spagnuolo appears pleased with the Rams' progress to this point.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic wonders how the Cardinals will respond after a poor showing against the Packers in the third exhibition game. Quarterback Kurt Warner:  "You get to the point where there really needs to be a sense of urgency moving forward. Everyone has got to feel it, and everybody has to understand, and everybody has to take it upon themselves not to let it happen again."

Also from Somers: a look at the Cardinals' lesser-known receivers.

Darren Urban of quotes Darnell Dockett as saying not everyone came to play for the Cardinals against Green Bay. Urban: "No one was immune to criticism Friday. Whisenhunt made sure to say the issues began with the coaching, but the problems permeated almost everywhere. Defensive coordinator Bill Davis wants to focus on accountability, but even the players weren't feeling good about that progress Friday night."

More from Urban: "Scary" is the word he uses to describe the effort on defense.

John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' offense appears conservative -- very conservative -- under coach Mike Singletary and offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye. Crumpacker: "With time winding down in the fourth quarter, the 49ers faced 4th-and-1 at the Dallas 9-yard line. It has almost become standard protocol in these practice games for a coach to go for it in the late going to avoid the dreadful possibility of overtime. But no, Alex Romero booted a 24-yard field goal for the 49ers with 3:55 to play, creating a 13-13 tie."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers thoughts on how various players performed for the 49ers. Manny Lawson had a rough game. Bear Pascoe did not play much. Maiocco on Nate Davis: "Prior to this evening's game, I thought the 49ers could stash him on their practice squad. Now, I say there is absolutely no reason to take that chance. Sure, it was just an exhibition game against the Cowboys' backups, but the kid showed a lot. He looks smooth. He showed poise. He looks like a player. The 49ers drafted him in the fifth round because they want him. They must not take any chance of losing him."

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' backups fared well.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee probably won't be drafting a 49ers receiver in his fantasy league. Also, the 49ers had no sacks.

Also from Barrows: Shaun Hill hasn't developed a rapport with his receivers. Barrows: "The 49ers' first five plays either were runs or short tosses to the running backs. Hill didn't complete a pass to a wideout -- Arnaz Battle -- until 1:29 remained in the first half. The starting wide receivers were Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan. Four passes were thrown in their direction; none connected."

Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers have much work to do. Brown: "Hill completed 9 of 19 passes for 79 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. His first three drives ended in punts before he led the team to Joe Nedney's field goal near the end of the first half. Unlike last week, the running game didn't offer much help. Neither Frank Gore nor Glen Coffee registered a run longer than 7 yards before halftime."

David Fucillo of Niners Nation thinks there's no way the 49ers can risk subjecting Davis to waivers.

Greg Johns of offers thoughts on the Seahawks' performance against the Chiefs. Johns: "Lawrence Jackson, where are you? Rookie Nick Reed was neutralized for the much of his time on the field, but landed his obligatory sack in the closing minutes and didn't hurt his ongoing campaign to land a roster spot."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times also offers Seahawks-rela
ted thoughts, noting that Kevin Hobbs appeared to give up a long completion to Ashley Lelie.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune quotes Seahawks safety Deon Grant as saying the defense played well against Kansas City. Grant: "At the end of the day it's about how many points they put up. ... We bowed up when we needed to bow up, so I feel like we did a good job."

Also from Williams: The Seattle ground game showed signs of life.

Chris Sullivan of Seahawk Addicts liked what he saw from the team's offensive line.

John Morgan of Field Gulls points to winners and losers among Seattle players Saturday night. He liked Ray Willis in pass protection. Both tackles seemed to play pretty well, and the play calling also seemed to help them.

Clare Farnsworth of says the Seahawks' first-team units finished strong against the Chiefs. As for that battle between kickers Olindo Mare and Brandon Coutu? Stay tuned.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Thoughts and observations on the Seahawks after watching the first half of their exhibition game against the Chiefs:

  • Brandon Mebane disrupts. The Seahawks need the third-year defensive tackle to get upfield quickly. Mebane did that effectively from the beginning in this game. His sack on Matt Cassel sent the Chiefs' quarterback to the locker room with an injury.
  • Tackling still shaky. The Seahawks' Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu and Josh Wilson all missed tackles on 31-yard Chiefs run to end first quarter. Individual players made a few nice plays for Seattle, but the defense as a whole wasn't consistent, struggling against the run. Holding the Chiefs to zero third-down conversions in the half would have seemed more impressive if Cassel hadn't left the game.
  • Kicking battle in focus. Olindo Mare badly missed two first-half field-goal attempts. Brandon Coutu, though shorter on his kickoffs, has never missed in preseason. Advantage, Coutu (although he has now missed one from 50-plus yards in second half). Update: Receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said the grass is slick and the holders were having a tough time placing the ball.
  • Running game picks up. Julius Jones started having success on the ground once Justin Griffith replaced Owen Schmitt as fullback. I thought it wasn't a coincidence. Griffith knows the offense and his presence on the field raises the team's football IQ, a point of emphasis for Seattle this offseason (also enhanced by adding Houshmandzadeh and running back Edgerrin James).
  • Matt Hasselbeck is heating up. The veteran quarterback strengthened his rapport with Houshmandzadeh and tight end John Carlson. He worked the 2-minute offense nicely before the half, finding Houshmandzadeh repeatedly and Deion Branch as well. Hasselbeck looks better than any quarterback in the division this summer. He also took a couple more awkward hits, including one in the back, without flinching. He has completed 19 of 25 passes for 216 yards and two touchdowns through the first two-plus quarters. His lone interception came on a tipped pass early in the game.
Those are a few of the things I noticed in the first half and while writing this in the third quarter.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury-News says Glen Coffee's strong running performances this summer will not necessarily affect Frank Gore's playing time. Brown: "[Coach Mike] Singletary, though impressed by the rookie, has no appetite for a running backs controversy. He said that Coffee is not necessarily earning a bigger share of the workload for 2009 and that the kid's role remains the same -- to give Gore a rest on occasion."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers learned little about their quarterback situation Saturday night. On the offensive line, Marvel Smith replaced Adam Snyder at right tackle after Snyder suffered ankle and knee injuries. Maiocco: "Snyder appeared to be walking without any problems after the game, but Singletary said he would undergo an MRI examination."

Also from Maiocco: A play-by-play account of the 49ers in the first half of their game against the Raiders. Micheal Spurlock served as the third receiver early in the game.

More from Maiocco: The 49ers' quarterback debate is a lot nastier than the relationship between Alex Smith and Shaun Hill.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Smith played better than Hill against the Raiders, though his 4.2 passer rating wouldn't say so. Barrows on Smith: "He showed good energy and urgency early on, which hasn't always been the case with Smith. The truth is that he wasn't helped out by his receivers. Both Vernon Davis and Josh Morgan missed catchable balls, and Morgan's miscue led to an interception."

More from Barrows: A play-by-play account of the 49ers in the first half. Anyone seen team president Jed York?

David Fucillo of Niners Nation didn't see much pass rush from the 49ers, one of several points he makes in a position-by-position review of the team.

Scott Kegley of says running back Michael Robinson rushed for 83 yards against Oakland in the third quarter alone.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts and observations following the Cardinals' game against the Chargers. Somers: "Five trips in the red zone. No touchdowns. Coach Ken Whisenhunt wasn't happy about it but he's not going to panic. But it would be nice if the first team scored a touchdown this preseason. The Cardinals have scored only one TD in the preseason, on a pass from Tyler Palko to Onrea Jones at Pittsburgh."

Also from Somers: "It was a rough night for the Cardinals quarterbacks. Starter Kurt Warner wasn't sharp and had a pass intercepted at the Chargers goal line. For the second consecutive game, [Brian] St. Pierre did nothing to threaten Matt Leinart's status as Warner's backup, completing 6 of 15 for 79 yards and no touchdowns."

Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have become a hot commodity. Bickley: "This reborn franchise has done more than just join the party. These days, the Cardinals are the party."

Somers and Bob McManaman say the Cardinals' red zone offense has struggled.

Darren Urban of says Arizona's first-team defense played very well against the Chargers. Calais Campbell:  "We have the potential to be great. If we can just keep the team thing going, we will be fine." 

Also from Urban: LaRod Stephens-Howling might have earned a roster spot, but all was not good for the Cardinals against San Diego. Whisenhunt pointed to mitigating factors when asked about St. Pierre's performance at quarterback.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers a few Seahawks notes from their game against the Broncos. Deon Butler made a strong impression early as a receiver, but not as a kickoff returner.

John Morgan of Field Gulls singles out the following Seattle players as "winners" Saturday night: Nick Reed, Michael Bennett, Butler, Justin Forsett, Will Herring, Baraka Atkins, David Hawthorne, C.J. Wallace, Brandon Coutu and Jordan Babineaux.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' first-team defense struggled against the Broncos, getting pushed up and down the field. I had the same feeling, but the Broncos' overall rushing numbers were weak. Coach Jim Mora: "Our second unit came in and did a heck of a job. We just have to be more focused, we just have to play with more enthusiasm, more energy, we have to tackle better, we have to bring our feet when we tackle." I also suspect the Broncos' offense did a little more game-planning than usual in an attempt to get quarterback Kyle Orton on track following a three-interception showing last week.

Clare Farnsworth of says Matt Hasselbeck and T.J. Houshmandzadeh are starting to get in sync.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch profiles Rams left tackle Alex Barron. Says teammate Chris Long: "I got to see some great left tackles last year, and I really do feel like Alex is a rising star in the league at that spot. I feel like this is going to be a breakout year for him, where people start to realize this is a premier left tackle."

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the unforgiving nature of NFL
preseasons. Said Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis: "In college, I made it a point of learning everyone's name and becoming familiar with all my teammates. I wanted to know where they were from, what their brothers or sisters names were, because in college, you started camp with 100 guys and you ended camp with 100 guys. But here, you look around and you realize that there will be a lot of empty lockers around here in a few weeks."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says falling behind 14-0 right away wasn't what the Rams wanted as they attempted to win back a skeptical fan base.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Seahawks seventh-round Nick Reed made another strong case for a roster spot Saturday night. He deflected a punt, had 1.5 sacks and forced a fumble. He nearly blocked another punt in the final 30 seconds of the Seahawks' 27-13 victory at Qwest Field.

Reed also drew a personal-foul penalty for hitting Broncos quarterback Chris Simms in the legs, injuring Simms. This is one penalty that will not count against Reed when the Seahawks evaluate which players to keep on their initial 53-man roster. The fact that Reed was around the quarterback and punishing him is what matters.

Reed's strong showings this summer prove he's better than the backups he has faced against the Chargers and Broncos. That doesn't necessarily mean he'll earn a roster spot, but I do think Reed's status as a draft choice works in his favor. No team wants to watch one of its impressive late-round draft choices catch on with another team.

The Seahawks held a roster spot last season for 2008 seventh-rounder Brandon Coutu even though Coutu never played in a regular-season game. They also kept 2008 seventh-rounder Justin Forsett on the initial reduction to 53 players, releasing him one week into the season only after injuries created a severe need at receiver.

Reed is competing with Michael Bennett and possibly Baraka Atkins for a roster spot. Bennett leveled Broncos quarterback Tom Brandstater for a sack. Atkins shared a sack with Reed.

Posted by's Mike Sando

Among the things I'll be watching when the Seahawks face the Broncos in their second exhibition game Saturday night:

  • Sean Locklear at left tackle. The Seahawks hope Walter Jones can return from knee surgery in time to play a full season at left tackle. Locklear will work there in the meantime. The team's usual right tackle can earn an additional $600,000 in 2010 compensation if he plays half the snaps at left tackle in half the Seahawks' regular-season games this season. That price would be a bargain if Locklear plays well.
  • Depth at receiver. Jordan Kent, Ben Obomanu, Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Mike Hass and Michael Bumpus are battling for one or two roster spots behind receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler. Kent, Obomanu and Taylor do not have practice-squad eligibility. They need to produce now.
  • Nick Reed, Michael Bennett and Baraka Atkins. At least one of these players could be affected if the Seahawks keep fewer than 10 defensive linemen. Another impressive showing from Reed, who had two sacks and an interception in his exhibition debut, could make it tougher for Seattle to sneak him onto the practice squad.
  • Matt Hasselbeck. The quarterback has yet to take a hit since last season. The Broncos pressured the 49ers' quarterbacks last week by exploiting fullback Zak Keasey in blitz pickup. Seattle fullback Owen Schmitt needs to prove he can play consistently well in that area. One lapse could expose Hasselbeck to punishment.
  • The kickers. Brandon Coutu needs to get more depth on his kickoffs. He and Olindo Mare are competing for one roster spot. The team will not keep two kickers this season.
  • Cameron Morrah. Seattle will likely choose between Morrah, a seventh-round rookie, and Joe Newton as the third tight end. It's the sort of competition you'll probably appreciate if you've lasted this deep into a blog entry about things to watch during a game few will remember one month from now.
NFL Network is carrying this game live at 10:30 p.m. ET.