NFC West: C.J. Ah you

Former St. Louis Rams receiver Steve Smith announced his retirement through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Wednesday.

The story by itself shouldn't mean much to Rams fans.

Smith, after all, started only two games in 2012 while trying to overcome serious knee injuries. He was never a player the Rams were counting on for significant contributions.

Smith's retirement is notable in another context, however. His name tops what should be a relatively short list of players to disappear from the game in 2013 after making at least one start for the Rams last season.

Last season, 16 players made zero regular-season appearances in an NFL game after starting at least once for the Rams in 2011. One such player, linebacker Chris Chamberlain, probably would have played with New Orleans had he not suffered a knee injury. Many of the others languished for lack of interest.

A quick look at the list of 15 players beyond Chamberlain: Adam Goldberg, James Hall, Fred Robbins, Tony Wragge, Jason Brown, Cadillac Williams, Rod Hood, Al Harris, C.J. Ah You, Mark Levoir, Ben Leber, Nick Miller, A.J. Feeley, Mike Sims-Walker and Mark Clayton.

Hall, Robbins, Goldberg, Wragge and Brown started at least half the games in 2011. Some others found opportunities because the Rams suffered from an unusual number of injuries that season.

Still, as the Rams improve and build around younger players, including quite a few drafted in the first two rounds, they should have less room on their roster for stopgap veterans. At receiver, for example, none of the Rams' players is even 26 years old. Players such as Smith, Sims-Walker and Clayton wouldn't fit.

First look at Rams' 2012 free agents

February, 7, 2012
The St. Louis Rams have 20 players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

I'm not sure any of them qualify as players the Rams absolutely must bring back, particularly with a new coach and new schemes on both sides of the ball.

Receiver Brandon Lloyd would help fill a need, but at what price? Would he fit as well in a new offense after producing at disproportionate levels to this point when paired with former coordinator Josh McDaniels, now in New England?

Guard Jacob Bell played for new coach Jeff Fisher in Tennessee. He might have more value to the new staff than he had to the old one; McDaniels wanted more powerful guards, such as Harvey Dahl.

This item, like the previous one for Arizona, expands upon Brian McIntyre's lists. I've added columns for offensive and defensive snap counts from 2011, courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information. The final column shows how much each player's previous contract averaged.

Update: Punter Donnie Jones is also an unrestricted free agent. His previous contracted averaged not quite $1.2 million.


Receiver Danny Amendola, listed with the restricted free agents below, has not played since suffering an elbow injury in the 2011 season opener.

2011 Seahawks Week 14: Five observations

December, 17, 2011
Five things I noticed while watching the Seattle Seahawks' most recent game, a 30-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams in Week 14:
  • McQuistan fared pretty well. Losing left tackle Russell Okung to a season-ending pectoral injury hurt the Seahawks' offensive line coming into this game, but backup Paul McQuistan got the team through this game without incident. McQuistan steered Rams defensive end James Hall out of the play on Marshawn Lynch's run around the left side to open the game. The team was fortunate McQuistan came out of this game healthy. He was pass protecting late in the second quarter when the Rams' C.J. Ah You flew into the back of his legs after rushing from the other side of the formation. Justin Forsett gained 11 yards on the third-and-7 play.
  • Wright's monster game should have been better. Rookie linebacker K.J. Wright finished with eight total tackles, three tackles for loss, two quarterback hits, one sack and one pass defensed. But he also dropped a pass Sam Bradford threw right to him with 9:43 left in the first quarter. At that point in the game, Wright had already taken down Steven Jackson for a 3-yard loss on a screen. Also in the first half, Wright shed Rams tackle Mark LeVoir to take down Jackson for a 1-yard loss.
  • Seeing good things from Tate. Receiver Golden Tate has bounced back from a disappointing rookie season and underwhelming start to 2011. Two little things stood out about his performance Monday night. Tate helped out his scrambling quarterback by coming back to the ball for a 22-yard reception on third-and-11. Later, he cleared out cornerback Justin King on the perimeter to free Doug Baldwin for a first down.
  • Good timing for trick play. The Seahawks tried a halfback pass on a second-and-1 play. The timing was perfect. Second-and-1 is close to a free play. Seattle had to like its chances of picking up third-and-1. While the timing was right, the execution and possibly the play design seemed lacking. If nothing else, at least future opponents have something more to consider in short-yardage situations.
  • Kickoff coverage a little leaky. The Seahawks allowed 47- and 31-yard kickoff returns to Jerious Norwood, something to keep in mind as they prepare to face the Chicago Bears' Devin Hester on Sunday. Hester has been more dangerous on punt returns than on kick returns, but he does have a 98-yard touchdown on a kickoff return this season. The Seahawks allowed the Rams only one punt return for a single yard. Hester returned one against them for a touchdown last season.

A couple of other notes just missed the cut, one about how Tarvaris Jackson took shots from Chris Long and Eugene Sims on the same play without falling. Lynch's tackle-breaking ability also stood out, again. Lynch kept alive one play long enough for left guard Robert Gallery to get up off the ground following his initial block to make a second block before James Laurinaitis finally made the tackle.

Silver linings: Rams at Seahawks

December, 13, 2011
The facts: The St. Louis Rams fell to 2-11 with a 30-13 road defeat to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14.

The upside: Even the worst defeats tend to feature a bright spot or two.
  • Steven Jackson scored his 52nd career rushing touchdown, leaving him four shy of Eric Dickerson's franchise record. Jackson also moved past Henry Ellard on the Rams' career list for all-purpose yardage. His 50-yard reception was a career long.
  • Brandon Lloyd averaged 16.4 yards per reception. His longest gain covered 37 yards.
  • Rookie tight end Lance Kendricks had a 26-yard reception early in the game.
  • Jerious Norwood's 47-yard kickoff return was a season long for the Rams.
  • Gary Gibson and C.J. Ah You recorded sacks, while Brady Poppinga recovered a fumble.
  • Quarterback Sam Bradford, though sore afterward, did not appear to aggravate his ankle injury. Chris Long also made it through the game despite an ankle injury.
  • The Rams' defense kept the team in the game through three quarters.
Looking ahead: The Rams return home to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15.

Rams find way to protect Sam Bradford

December, 4, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO -- Picture-perfect California weather only marginally improved the St. Louis Rams' view from the visitor's sideline at Candlestick Park.

The Rams watched backup quarterbacks A.J. Feeley and Tom Brandstater warm up, but there was no sign of starter Sam Bradford. The more time passed, the clearer it became Bradford would not play Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

Bradford, slowed by an ankle injury, was among the players St. Louis declared inactive 90 minutes before the 4:15 p.m. ET kickoff. Feeley, 1-1 as a starter for the Rams this season, will start against San Francisco. The Rams also declared safety Darian Stewart, running back Cadillac Williams, linebacker Josh Hull, guard Kevin Hughes, tackle Mark LeVoir and defensive end C.J. Ah You inactive.

The 49ers' list featured quarterback Scott Tolzien, receiver Braylon Edwards, cornerback Shawntae Spencer, fullback Moran Norris, guard Daniel Kilgore, guard Mike Person and nose tackle Ian Williams.

Bradford missed practice during the week after aggravating the high-ankle sprain he suffered this season. There was no sense risking his physical well-being behind an offensive line playing without both starting tackles, in my view.

2011 Rams Week 12: Five observations

December, 4, 2011
Five things I noticed while watching the St. Louis Rams' most recent game, a 23-20 home defeat to the Arizona Cardinals:
  • Defensive scheming still evident. It's been a tough season for the Rams' defense. I'm inclined to think personnel, not scheming, is primarily at fault. The coaching staff continues to draw up blitzes producing free shots on opposing quarterbacks. That was the case about five minutes into the game when the Rams brought safety Darian Stewart to the line of scrimmage at the last moment, suggesting seven defenders could be coming on a blitz. Two defenders on the left side dropped into coverage, leaving Cardinals right guard Rex Hadnot with nobody to block. The left guard and left tackle went in opposite directions to pick up their rushers, leaving a free path for Stewart to shoot into the backfield unblocked. Stewart sacked quarterback John Skelton quickly, killing the drive.
  • Defense vulnerable on early downs. The Rams allowed 5.1 yards per play on first down, 8.1 yards per play on second down and 3.9 yards per play on third down. They allowed only 3.2 yards per play and no plays longer than 14 yards when using sub packages on defense, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But with Beanie Wells gashing the Rams' base defense, it's clear St. Louis needs the most improvement from its front seven, even while injuries at cornerback get most of the attention.
  • Stewart could be missed in run game. The 228 yards Wells gained could have been much more without a couple open-field tackles by Stewart, the Rams' big-hitting, somewhat inconsistent safety. A concussion will prevent Stewart from playing against San Francisco.
  • Rough one for Laurinaitis. The Cardinals, specifically left guard Daryn Colledge, effectively blocked Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. I'll be interested in seeing how Laurinaitis fares when the 49ers' left guard, Mike Iupati, comes his way. Inside linebackers benefit or suffer from the defensive tackles playing in front of them. The Rams were without Justin Bannan in the Arizona game. Fred Robbins, coming off a career-best performance in 2010, hasn't stood out this season.
  • Sharing the blame for punt return. Patrick Peterson's 80-yard touchdown on a punt return stretched a 13-10 Cardinals lead to 20-10 late in the third quarter. So many factors beyond punt coverage enabled the return. Two plays before the return, guard Jason Brown and tackle Harvey Dahl whiffed on their blocks, allowing the Cardinals to tackle Steven Jackson for a loss, setting up third-and-long. Peterson made a physical tackle to stop the Rams short on third down. And with the Rams facing fourth-and-1, a false-start penalty against C.J. Ah You prompted the Cardinals to change their personnel. Arizona had its defense on the field to prevent against a fake on fourth-and-1. The punt-return team came onto the field once Ah You's penalty changed the situation to fourth-and-6.

I'll be heading over to Candlestick Park shortly. No NFC West teams play early games this week. Sounds like a chance to check out the tailgating scene. The forecast calls for clear skies, moderate temperatures and the 49ers' first NFC West title since 2002.

Hidden key to Patrick Peterson's return

November, 28, 2011
The Arizona Cardinals weren't convinced the St. Louis Rams planned to punt on fourth-and-1 with 4:05 remaining in the third quarter Sunday.

They left their regular defensive personnel on the field -- Clark Haggans, Darnell Dockett, Daryl Washington, Adrian Wilson, David Carter, Paris Lenon and Calais Campbell among them -- just in case the Rams planned a fake.

But when officials flagged the Rams' C.J. Ah You for a false-start penalty, setting up fourth-and-6, the Cardinals subbed their full punt-return team onto the field. Cameras showed Wilson and Washington running off the field immediately. The next wide-angle shot available showed the punt-coverage team aligned in standard fashion, different from how the regular defense had lined up before the penalty.

Patrick Peterson returned the ensuing punt 80-yards for a game-breaking touchdown. The Cardinals won the game, 23-20. Would Peterson have scored without his usual blocking contingent on the field? It's impossible to know, but the odds would be against it, in my view.

Closer look at Peterson's 99-yard return

November, 7, 2011
Patrick Peterson's 99-yard punt return for a touchdown Sunday stands as the second-longest in NFL history. It should stand as the longest, but back in 1994, officials erred in allowing Robert Bailey's 103-yard return for the Los Angeles Rams against New Orleans. Everyone but Bailey appeared to think Tommy Barnhardt's punt had gone out of the end zone for a touchback. So, while the Rams' offensive players and Saints' defensive players walked onto the field, Bailey returned the ball uncontested. League officials later admitted their error, noting that offsetting penalties should have returned the ball to where the infractions occurred, right around the Rams' 15-yard line. There was nothing cheap about Peterson's 99-yarder to beat the St. Louis Rams in overtime. A look back at how it came together:

  • The ball left punter Donnie Jones' foot at the St. Louis 35-yard line.
  • [+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
    AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinArizona is hoping that Patrick Peterson is ready to develop into one of the league's top cornerbacks.
    Peterson positioned himself at the Arizona 10, just outside his left hashmark. Peterson tracked the ball initially, then sneaked a peak at the coverage teams. The Fox hangtime clock read 2.7 seconds at this point. In a split second, Peterson tilted his head upward again to track the ball. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "To do that, with those guys screaming down the field, is very difficult. That's where he is really special."
  • Peterson moved backward and to his left, settling at about the 3-yard line. That is where he appeared to field the ball. The hangtime clock read 4.3 seconds.
  • Peterson had only his right foot on the ground as he fielded the ball. Rams running back Quinn Porter was at the 9-yard line along the yard-line numbers to Peterson's left. Rams fullback Brit Miller was on the same side of the field between the yard-line numbers and the hash at the 15. Dominique Curry, the Rams' best special-teams coverage player, was between the hashes at the 14. Rams linebacker Chris Chamberlain was between the hashes at about the 22, with Cardinals safety Rashad Johnson running with him step for step nearer the middle of the field, allowing Johnson to shield Chamberlain from Peterson initially.
  • Cardinals cornerback Richard Marshall made the key block, tossing Curry to the ground back near where Peterson fielded the ball. When Curry rolled over and looked up, Peterson was already at the 6-yard line outside the hash on the other side of the field, where Porter and Miller had chased him.
  • Rams defensive lineman C.J. Ah You had run wide enough to force Peterson back to the middle beginning from about the Arizona 3 just outside the Cardinals' right hash. Ah You overran Peterson.
  • Rams safety James Butler was at the 15-yard line to Peterson's right. He came off his block, but missed Peterson at the 17.
  • Chamberlain caught up to Peterson at the 30 just as Peterson was weaving outside the yard-line numbers to his right. Chamberlain dove, but Peterson wasn't there. Chamberlain collided with teammate Eugene Sims, who was also making a diving attempt at a tackle.
  • Jones, the punter, stood at the 35 obstructing Peterson's path. Peterson was still facing forward at his own 29. With Sims reaching for Peterson's ankles and rolling to propel himself along, Peterson rotated clockwise. His back was to the middle of the field at the 31. He was moving backward when he reached the 34. That is where Jones passed by, flailing like a matador. Peterson was facing the middle of the field as he crossed the 37, giving him a clear view of an onrushing Jake McQuaide, the Rams' snapper. McQuaide was already nearing the 40 outside the hash and had the angle. Peterson continued rotating and was facing forward again by the time he reached the 39. The race was on.
  • McQuaide pulled even with Peterson at the St. Louis 46 and for a moment seemed to be within striking distance. If they had been cars on a two-lane highway, McQuaide would have been the guy in the four-door sedan. Peterson, driving the Ferrari, pulled away quickly and was gone. O'Brien Schofield made sure of it, cutting between McQuaide and Peterson at the St. Louis 30.

The game was over. Peterson had scored a touchdown on a punt return for the third time in his first eight NFL games, an NFL record. Only the Denver Broncos' Rick Upchurch has had more touchdowns on punt returns in the first eight games of any NFL season. He had four in 1976.

The latest on Rams' Sam Bradford

November, 6, 2011
Chris Mortensen says the St. Louis Rams are "optimistic" quarterback Sam Bradford can return from a high-ankle sprain Sunday.

The Rams listed Bradford as questionable on their Friday injury report. Bradford has not played in 21 days. High-ankle sprains generally take longer to heal, but Bradford has a better chance because his left ankle is the injured one. He plants on his right ankle when throwing.

I've had a hard time projecting a winner for the Rams' game at Arizona, in part because the quarterback situations have been muddied. I went with the Cardinals because they're home and I suspect Arizona should be able to run the ball well, but even that's tough to know for certain with Beanie Wells less than full strength and the Rams coming off a strong showing against New Orleans.

Bradford's availability at less than full strength adds another variable that is difficult to quantify.

The St. Louis Rams have listed quarterback Sam Bradford as questionable for the second time this season.

Recovery times for high-ankle sprains can be unpredictable, coach Steve Spagnuolo has repeatedly said, but if Bradford returns Sunday, he'll beat reasonable expectations.

Three Cleveland Browns quarterbacks suffered high-ankle sprains last season. The youngest of the three, Colt McCoy, played in a game 28 days later. The oldest, Jake Delhomme, was forced into action prematurely after a 28-day recovery period. He played two quarters and still wasn't right a month later. The Browns' other quarterback last season, Seneca Wallace, returned to practice 31 days after suffering his high-ankle sprain.

Bradford was injured during an Oct. 16 game at Green Bay. Bradford did not play the next week after the Rams listed him as questionable. In retrospect, the team's optimism that week could have reflected Bradford's determination to play more than his realistic chances for getting onto the field so quickly. The team reassessed the injury and held out Bradford against New Orleans in Week 8.

Bradford practiced on a limited basis Friday.

There has been no clear pattern for players the Rams have listed as questionable. Seven of 13 did not play after appearing as questionable on previous Fridays this season. An eighth, Steven Jackson, was limited to only 14 offensive snaps after being questionable for Week 3.

The chart shows the players St. Louis has listed as questionable on Fridays previously this season, their injuries, whether they played and how much they played.

Update: Which ankle is injured matters. Delhomme and Wallace injured their right ankles, making it tougher to plant and drive when throwing. McCoy and Bradford suffered sprains to their left ankles. That could, in theory, enable them to return sooner.


Steven Jackson active: Big boost for Rams

September, 25, 2011
The St. Louis Rams can use all the hard-nosed, physical players they can get heading into their game against Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens.

Running back Steven Jackson, sidelined since the early going of a Week 1 defeat to Philadelphia, is one of the players St. Louis needs the most. The team did not list him among its inactive players Sunday, meaning Jackson will be available to them.

Jackson's first carry of the season went for 47 yards and a touchdown, but he suffered a strained quadriceps on the play. He returned for one more carry and has not played since.

The Rams will be without receiver Danny Amendola, safety Jermale Hines, receiver Greg Salas and defensive end C.J. Ah You.

NFC West: Injury situations that matter

September, 21, 2011
Arizona: Inside linebacker Daryl Washington continues to miss practice with a calf injury suffered during the regular-season opener. He did not play against Washington and will be missed if unavailable again this week. Washington flashed playmaking ability last season and picked up where he left off. The other starting inside linebacker, Paris Lenon, practiced fully despite briefly leaving the Washington game. The Cardinals should have strong depth at the position, but veteran newcomer Stewart Bradley has struggled getting comfortable in a 3-4 scheme. He and Reggie Walker could play more against the Seahawks. Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling was limited in practice and could return from a hand injury. He's a threat on kick returns and tends to get the ball when Arizona puts him on offense, but if the hand injury threatens ball security, that could change. Beanie Wells is commanding more carries, anyway.

St. Louis: The Rams think running back Steven Jackson wouldn't have tested his strained quadriceps during pregame warmups in Week 2 if he weren't close to returning. That suggests Jackson could be back on the field against Baltimore in Week 3. The Rams need him, but can they count on his health? Recent history suggests they cannot even though Jackson has played through most of his injuries. Backup Cadillac Williams suffered a hamstring injury Monday night, but he's expected to be available. Depth at receiver and cornerback is also a concern. Receiver Danny Amendola will push to get back from a dislocated elbow as early as the Rams will let him back on the field, but it might not happen this week. Amendola's backup, rookie Greg Salas, muffed a punt Monday night and emerged from the game with injured ribs. The corner situation remains dicey, although it hasn't gotten appreciably worse after Tim Atchison landed on injured reserve. The team signed corner Josh Gordy from its practice squad to replace Atchison, who also had roots on the practice squad. Losing starter Ron Bartell and projected third corner Jerome Murphy previously forced the Rams into a tough spot. Linebacker Ben Leber (groin) and defensive end C.J. Ah You (wrist) are also injured. Ah You will not play Sunday, leaving more snaps, in theory, for rookie first-round pick Robert Quinn. The Rams practiced later than usual Wednesday, so an official report was not yet available.

San Francisco: Losing receiver Braylon Edwards to knee surgery was the big story from 49ers headquarters Wednesday. It's not clear how long Edwards will miss, but he's not playing against Cincinnati in Week 3. Michael Crabtree's expected return would help, but he hasn't practiced much with the team under coach Jim Harbaugh. Joshua Morgan, Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams figure to play more prominent roles. This could be the week tight end Vernon Davis gets more involved in the offense as a receiver. He made key plays against Seattle in the opener, but the 49ers haven't been leaning on the pass. Davis met with Harbaugh this week to discuss his role after catching only seven passes for 65 yards in the first two games. He went through two stints last season with equal or less production in consecutive games. Each time, he had a 100-yard receiving game the next week. Fullback Moran Norris has a lower leg injury that could threaten his availability. Bruce Miller, whose primary value is on special teams, would replace him. It's possible the team would run fewer two-back personnel groupings without Norris. The team has averaged 2.2 yards per carry from two-back personnel on early downs, compared to 3.7 with one back. UPDATE: The 49ers disclosed that quarterback Alex Smith suffered a concussion against Dallas, but Smith practiced fully Wednesday.

Seattle: Receiver Sidney Rice returned to practice and will try to play despite a torn labrum. Having him available and anywhere near full strength would significantly improve the Seahawks' prospects in the passing game, particularly against an Arizona secondary that has struggled. But it's too early in the week to know whether Rice's shoulder will hold up. The offensive line will shuffle again with Robert Gallery requiring groin surgery. The dropoff from a diminished Gallery to a healthier Paul McQuistan might not be significant, but it's been four seasons since McQuistan started. If necessary, the team could always shift right tackle James Carpenter back to left guard, with Breno Giacomini going back into the lineup at right tackle. But McQuistan gets first crack at starting. Fullback Michael Robinson continues to miss practice with an ankle injury. The team feels his loss on special teams. The same is true with cornerback Byron Maxwell, who also missed practice with an ankle injury. Losing Robinson and Maxwell during the opener at San Francisco played a role in the Seahawks' late special-teams collapse. Coaches have had time to prepare contingencies, but getting Robinson back in particular will help.

On Kroenke's postgame Spagnuolo chats

September, 20, 2011
Team owner Stan Kroenke was the first person I saw upon entering the St. Louis Rams' locker room Monday night. He stood near one of the main entrances.

The Rams had returned from the field following their 28-16 road defeat to the New York Giants. Rules require teams to open their locker rooms to reporters following a 10-minute cooling-off period, but in this case, the locker room remained closed for an extended period without the head coach emerging for his scheduled news conference.

Why the delay? Kroenke, who took over last year as majority owner after years in a minority role, sometimes meets with coach Steve Spagnuolo following games.

"I do deeply apologize for being late at the postgame conferences," Spagnuolo told reporters in St. Louis on Tuesday. "I want you to know that it is not out of any disrespect. ... I have visited a couple times with Mr. Kroenke and I value that time. He’s great. I appreciate him coming in and talking to us and myself and that’s kind of what’s happened, but we’ll get that squared away and I promise you that we’ll take care of you like we should."

I pass along this information as a window into the often vague coach-owner dynamics. Kroenke doesn't reveal much about himself publicly and isn't one to comment on day-to-day team operations. That he would meet with the team and head coach following games shows a level of engagement we might not normally know about.

A few more Rams-related notes from Spagnuolo's day-after game media session:
  • The team does not expect defensive lineman C.J. Ah You to be available in the near future following wrist surgery. That leaves a clearer path for rookie first-round choice Robert Quinn to remain active on game days. Quinn had a sack in his debut Monday night.
  • Receiver Danny Amendola has improved range of motion in his dislocated elbow and will not practice Wednesday, but the team is considering his status day-to-day. That's an indication Amendola could return sooner rather than later, although it's premature to say he'll be back this week.
  • Linebacker Ben Leber (groin) is also day-to-day, while rookie receiver Greg Salas injured his ribs (X-rays were negative).
  • Running back Cadillac Williams has a "low-grade" strained hamstring that will require monitoring. That could be a concern depending upon whether Steven Jackson can come back from a quadriceps strain this week. Spagnuolo said he is "hopeful" on Jackson given that Jackson made an effort to be ready Monday night, an indication Jackson is close to returning.
  • The Rams limit Danario Alexander's reps in practice to protect Alexander's surgically repaired knee. That can affect how many reps Alexander plays in games as well.
  • Spagnuolo thought the Rams' offensive line made strides from Week 1 to Week 2, but the overall offensive timing was still not there consistently enough.

No surprise: Jackson, Amendola inactive

September, 19, 2011
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The St. Louis Rams and New York Giants have submitted their inactive lists for their Monday night matchup.
We're about an hour from kickoff. I'm seeing Rams fans wearing Eric Dickerson and Jack Youngblood jerseys, and another with a Sam Bradford jersey. The stadium remains mostly empty at this time, however.

Around the NFC West: Career in doubt?

September, 14, 2011
The first instinct regarding NFL injuries is to assess how they'll affect a team on game days.

How injuries affect the players should count for something, too -- especially with an injury as potentially serious as the one St. Louis Rams cornerback Ron Bartell suffered during Week 1.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says there's no question Bartell's 2011 season ended Sunday. The question now is whether the broken bone in Bartell's lower neck will heal well enough for Bartell to resume his career. Thomas: "Bartell, 29, expects to go on the injured-reserve list today. He said the C7 bone in his lower neck has two fractures, the result of being hit by an Eagles player in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 31-13 loss to Philadelphia. He won't need surgery but will spend the next two to three months wearing a brace that extends from his rib cage to his neck." Bartell says he has a chance to heal fully because there was no displacement. With Bartell out and fellow corner Bradley Fletcher hurting, the Rams brought in Fred Bennett, Rod Hood, Nathan Jones and Robert McClain for workouts.

Also from Thomas: Rams first-round pick Robert Quinn was surprised to be named inactive for the opener. He'll be active in Week 2 after defensive lineman C.J. Ah You suffered a wrist injury requiring surgery.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks are signing fullback Eddie Williams off the Browns' practice squad because they needed depth and special-teams help after losing Michael Robinson to injury. Backup tight end Dominique Byrd will be the odd man out for now.

Also from O'Neil: The Seahawks' offensive line remains a work in progress. O'Neil: "Seattle has spent its past two first-round selections on offensive lineman, choosing Russell Okung in 2010 and James Carpenter this season. Max Unger -- a second-round choice -- is at center, while this year's third-round selection, John Moffitt, is playing right guard. ... Draft pedigree is no guarantee that those players will live up to the potential the team sees in them. The litany of busts who never develop into effective starters speaks to that. But it's also true that one regular-season game after a lockout-shortened offseason is hardly an accurate forecast for what kind of players Carpenter and Moffitt will turn into." Noted: A trip to Pittsburgh in Week 2 puts this young line in a brutally difficult position.

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic focuses on Kevin Kolb's ability to find tight ends during the Cardinals' regular-season opener. Kolb: "I've always relied on my tight ends a lot, and when I came here and got with these guys, man, there's a lot of talent there. We're going to continue to use them. They obviously have the playmaking ability, so we'll look forward to putting the ball in their hands a lot more." Noted: The Cardinals did not invest all that money in Larry Fitzgerald so he could serve as a decoy to free up Jeff King and Todd Heap. Expect the Cardinals to find ways for Fitzgerald to get more involved.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says linebacker Stewart Bradley needs time to reprogram himself as he transitions from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 scheme. Somers: "Even the basic techniques are drastically different. In the Eagles defense, Bradley often would cover receivers man to man in certain situations and schemes. That sometimes meant turning his body and running with receivers. Now coaches are telling him to stay squarely facing the offense." Noted: There's no question the lockout set back Bradley's efforts to get comfortable in a new system. It's also surprising, at least to me, that he hasn't made the transition more quickly. Bradley said during training camp he had long wanted to play in a 3-4 defense that would let him become more of a playmaker.

Darren Urban of tells the story of a Cardinals fan's recovery from a random shooting. Urban: "The Taylors were about to leave when Jason, overhearing a couple of men talking about the military, told them he had always wanted to join the military, probably with the Marines. One of the men, Jeremiah Pulaski, a 24-year-old Army veteran who had just returned from duty in the Middle East, suddenly pulled a gun and shot Taylor. Pulaski fled, but was shot and killed later that night by police."

Matt Maiocco of offers his postgame look at every 49ers defensive player from Week 1, noting that defensive ends Justin Smith and Ray McDonald dominated. Maiocco on Smith: "Started at right defensive end, and was equally as dominant as McDonald. Smith finished with four tackles, two sacks, two tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries . . . . Used a spin move against left tackle Russell Okung to throw Jackson for a 9-yard sack in the first quarter. . . . While working against rookie left guard James Carpenter, Smith got a got his left arm around Jackson for the sack late in the fourth quarter to force the punt that Ted Ginn returned for a touchdown and the final points of the game."

Also from Maiocco: a player-by-player look at the 49ers' offense, with special emphasis on what went wrong on the six plays when Frank Gore went nowhere or lost yardage.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers finally found a third tight end, adding Justin Peelle.