NFC West: Chris Henry
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the door has not entirely shut on Holmgren.
Mike Lombardi of National Football Post explains the Seahawks' search for a general manager this way: "Why no Holmgren in Seattle? On the surface, it’s a very interesting question, but deep down, the Seahawks worried about Holmgren’s ability as a general manager, which initially prompted their hiring of Bob Ferguson and then Tim Ruskell. Clearly, the Seahawks love Holmgren’s talents as a coach, but they don’t hold the same appreciation for his ability to run an organization." Lombardi says the Seahawks need a leader without a predetermined view of the team.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with Aaron Curry, who was back at practice four days after being carted off the field with a hip pointer. Curry was face down for more than a minute before medical personnel rolled him over slowly. Cameras showed teammates Josh Wilson, Jordan Babineaux and Cory Redding kneeling in reflection nearby. The cart drove onto the field after Curry had been down for more than 2 minutes. Nearly another minute passed before medical personnel lifted Curry onto the cart. Curry: "I thought it was going to be much worse. A lot of guys said the way I was hollering that [they] thought my career was over."
Also from Farnsworth: Sacks are down for Patrick Kerney and the Seahawks.
Matt Pitman of 710ESPN Seattle passes along T.J. Houshmandzadeh's thoughts on the late Chris Henry.
Aaron Wilson of National Football Post says Seahawks interim GM Ruston Webster is interviewing for the full-time job.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says fumbling early in games has been a problem for the Cardinals. Somers: "Four of Tim Hightower's five fumbles have come in the first quarter. His four lost fumbles have come no later than the 14:13 mark in the second quarter. Hightower, in his second season, has looked long and hard to find the reasons for his turnovers. He's trying to walk the fine line of correcting the problem while not dwelling upon on it so much that it erodes his instincts."
Also from Somers: Larry Fitzgerald is practicing without complications from his recent knee injury.
More from Somers: details on kicker Neil Rackers' gruesome injury, including the observation that "it looks like Rackers has a map of Italy on his right leg."
Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals rookie safety Rashad Johnson sounds confident in his abilities. Johnson: "As a rookie, sometimes it's hard to come in and start and play like you did in college. But this is an opportunity for me to show the coaching staff just what they got in a third-round pick and I think I'm going to play a really good game on Sunday."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Johnson represents a fallback option if the Cardinals cannot resolve a sticky contract situation involving starting free safety Antrel Rolle.
Also from Urban: Fitzgerald shares his thoughts on fumbling. The Pro Bowl wideout has lost only three fumbles during his career, all during a four-game period in 2007.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams did not seek a 24-hour blackout extension from the league. Their game against the Texans will mark the second blacked out home game in a row.
Also from Thomas: the latest on the Rams' battles with swine flu. Center Jason Brown apparently played through the malady in Week 14. Agent Harold Lewis: "You know Jason. He plans on playing Sunday unless the Center for Disease Control stops him."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' mounting losses aren't a bad thing in the big picture, particularly this year. Burwell: "Sometimes you get star-crossed when you are a bad team, and that is what has happened to the Rams the last few years. They get just bad enough to be near the top of the draft, but then they get stuck with having to draft a player with the second overall pick who isn't really a drop-dead, game-changing automatic stud. This year, they are in the running to get one of those once-in-a-generation players whom NFL scouts and coaches drool about." That would be Ndamukong Suh.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee wonders how inclement weather might affect the 49ers-Eagles game Sunday.
Also from Barrows: 49ers offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye thinks Alex Smith will finish strong and become the team's quarterback for 2010. Barring injury or total collapse, it's difficult to envision the 49ers proceeding with anyone else under center (or in the shotgun, as it may be). It's also difficult to envision an offensive coordinator expressing anything but support for a quarterback in Smith's situation.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Smith's cadence has contributed to 17 offsides penalties for 49ers opponents, including 13 in home games.
Also from Maiocco: Free safety Dashon Goldson enjoyed a breakout performance against the Cardinals on Monday night, showing excellent range and playmaking ability. Maiocco: "While the season has not always been perfect, Goldson is playing much better in recent weeks. He clearly enjoyed the best game of his career Monday in the 49ers' 24-9 victory over the Cardinals. Goldson is second on the 49ers with 100 tackles this season. He has three interceptions, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a sack. And the 49ers feel good about his ability to effect change during the course of a game."
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News assesses Ahmad Brooks' improvement as a 49ers pass-rusher.
Also from Brown: Shawntae Spencer wins the 49ers' courage award after bouncing back from a devastating knee injury.
Thoughts and observations from the Rams' exhibition game against the Bengals on Thursday night:
- Defense capitalizes. The Rams appeared much more active and alert defensively than they did last week. Rookie James Laurinaitis pounced on an unforced fumble early in the game. Chris Long or Jonathan Wade probably would have recovered if Laurinaitis had not. Later, Laurinaitis made Bengals guard Nate Livings whiff badly as the rookie swarmed toward running back Cedric Benson. Ball-hawking safety Oshiomogho Atogwe forced a fumble, setting up James Butler's touchdown return. Butler later missed badly in run support, letting Benson get into the secondary. James Hall pressured effectively up the middle. Victor Adeyanju and C.J. Ah You seemed to play well.
- Asterisk duly noted. Former 49ers starter J.T. O'Sullivan was in the lineup at quarterback for the Bengals. Carson Palmer did not play.
- Mixed reviews at receiver. Laurent Robinson continued to show he can be effective on quick slants, a staple of the West Coast offense. Robinson also had a rough start. He dropped the ball on third down to kill the Rams' first drive. His illegal block also negated a first-down conversion on a running play. Keenan Burton worked underneath to catch a short pass. The Rams used a dink-and-dunk approach to the passing game. There weren't many chances to make plays downfield.
- Horrible special teams. The Bengals' return specialists found far too much room to run, gaining 104 yards on four punt returns. The Rams even had trouble executing an extra point, with Richie Incognito committing a false-start penalty on one of them. That was one of four special-teams penalties against the Rams. Josh Brown, a very good long-range kicker, missed from 50 and 51 yards. Quincy Butler fumbled after fielding a punt.
- Butler steps up on 'D'. The cornerback continues to make a push for a roster spot. He made a tackle for loss in the flat, then picked off a Jordan Palmer pass on the next play. Butler turned his head early in the route while covering Chris Henry, allowing him to play the ball. Butler was one of the lesser-known players who stood out when I visited Rams training camp. He did fumble after fielding a punt, but that was the least of the Rams' worries on special teams.
- Jason Brown sighting. Watching free-agent addition Jason Brown isn't particularly exciting. He's not a nimble, active center making plays in the run game 10 or 15 yards downfield. What Brown does seem to do is prevent immediate trouble up the middle. That is my initial impression of him and that is an improvement for the Rams.
- Jason Smith update. The rookie tackle played both sides for the Rams. I didn't notice him as much this week and that's probably a good thing. Smith did not seem to miss badly on blocks. He plays to the whistle, seeks out defenders late in plays and helps up teammates. He remains a work in progress, but he clearly wants it.
I've watched the first three-plus quarters of this game. The Rams finally did throw deep, with Brock Berlin looking unsuccessfully for Tim Carter along the left sideline. Smith tied up his man and didn't let him get to the quarterback.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers would draft Michael Crabtree with the 10th overall choice, if available. He says the 49ers would draft Knowshon Moreno over Chris Wells in the unlikely event they decided to draft a running back early. The team would be happy to draft Andre Smith at No. 10, but taking Michael Oher in that spot might not be a slam dunk. LSU's Tyson Jackson could be the preferred defensive lineman, over B.J. Raji. The team probably wouldn't take Malcolm Jenkins at No. 10. Brian Orakpo? Probably not. And it's unlikely the team would take Aaron Maybin or Everette Brown that early, either. Rey Maualuga or Brian Cushing could be higher priorities than Maybin or Brown.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee forecasts which players he thinks the 49ers will select with each of their picks. The list: Oher, running back Shonn Greene, outside linebacker Paul Kruger, quarterback Stephen McGee, inside linebacker Scott McKillop, receiver Brandon Gibson, outside linebacker Pierre Walters, receiver/quarterback Julian Edelman and tight end Bear Pascoe.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says there's value in the later rounds. He points to Pat White, Brian Hoyer, Chase Patton, Austin Collie, Ramses Barden, Kory Sheets and Ian Johnson as later-round prospects to watch.
Gary Plummer of 49ers.com says NFL teams can't measure a player's heart. Plummer: "I was never even invited to the Combine and I was never drafted, but I went on to play 12 seasons in the NFL. With those experiences, I've always rooted for guys who don't get drafted."
Niners scout Todd Brunner says the team has spent recent days making sure it has discussed every draft-eligible player.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' public-relations department shielded coach Mike Singletary from reporters in the days leading to the draft. Crumpacker: "It's just as well. General manager Scot McCloughan put the 49ers' draft board together and will be making the call for the club."
Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle made me chuckle with this description of the NFL draft: "Today is the worst day of the entire NFL draft process, because it is the day that all the speculation ends and your favorite team is stuck with the choice it made rather than awash in the dozens it could have."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic previews the Cardinals' draft in general terms. Forget about getting specifics from Rod Graves or Ken Whisenhunt.
Also from Somers: It appears receiver Anquan Boldin will remain with the Cardinals through the draft. Trades are often contingent on a player passing a physical. The acquiring team also needs time, in many cases, to work out a new contract with the player. Somers: "The Cardinals are surprised there hasn't been more interest from teams, who apparently think the cost is too high, considering they would also have to come to terms with Boldin on a contract that would pay him an average of $8 million to $10 million a year."
More from Somers: The Cardinals would have no interest in Titans running backs LenDale White or Chris Henry if Tennessee offered either player as part of a trade for Boldin.
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com previews the Seahawks' draft options. Johns: "As much as teams talk of drafting the best player available regardless of position, there is an impetus to pick athletes who will be in line to earn starting roles before long in order to justify their draft position and salary slot."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' first-round picks haven't panned out all that well under general manager Tim Ruskell, who has one year remaining on a five-year contract. Yes, this draft is important for him and the organization.
Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com takes a peek inside the Seahawks' draft room at their new facility. It's 1,600 square feet, twice the size of the old one. The rapport between Ruskell and vice president Ruston Webster transcends location. Webster: "You know what's sad? When we say something at the same time. That scares me. But it really is good. I know how he thinks. And I think for him, it's important to have somebody who understands that. And he knows how I think. For the most part, we were kind of brought up in this business the same way, so our philosophy is the same."
Tyler Dunne of Scout.com says the Seahawks would draft Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn in the third round if available.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams are putting an emphasis on character in this draft. Wagoner: "Fortunately for the Rams, most of the players they are considering in this year's draft are about as well rounded and mature as any crop of recent potential draft picks. Offensive tackles Jason Smith and Eugene Monroe, linebacker Aaron Curry and USC quarterback Mark Sanchez have received rave reviews for their personality and attitude at every stop they've made along the way. Taking Curry as an example, he has invited 12-year-old Bryson Merriweather, a leukemia survivor from Madison, Ala., to be his special guest at the draft in New York City."
VanRam of Turf Show Times warns against dismissing talk that the Rams could draft Sanchez with the second overall choice.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says he would draft Curry from Wake Forest with the second overall choice if he were making the decision for the Rams. However, all signs point to the team selecting an offensive tackle.
Also from Thomas: The Rams' need at tackle appears too great to ignore early in the draft. Thomas: "Michael Crabtree, the wide receiver from Texas Tech, basically eliminated himself from consideration with what Rams Park sources said was a diva attitude during his pre-draft trip here. Apparently, his rock star mentality was a big turnoff to coaches and front office personnel. Couple that with his foot injury, and the feeling in Earth City was that he wasn't worth the trouble. As for Sanchez, what first looked like pure smokescreen seemed to turn into downright infatuation. To some at Rams Park, Sanchez possesses the leadership qualities -- the 'it' factor -- that may be lacking in Marc Bulger. But at the end of the day, the Rams appear committed to Bulger for at least one more season."