NFC West: Chris Massey

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Adrian Wilson was back on the Cardinals' practice field in a limited capacity, his first on-field work since suffering an injured biceps tendon. Wilson still hopes to play in the regular-season opener. The injury news at quarterback wasn't so good for Arizona. John Skelton has a high-ankle sprain. Max Hall is out with a shoulder injury and has probably seen any chance of making a run for a roster spot disappear as a result. Wilson's toughness is pretty legendary. I have to think he'll be on the field for Week 1 if it's possible. But what happens when he extends his arms to deflect a pass or make a tackle? As tough as it is to envision Wilson missing the opener, it's just as tough to envision that biceps holding up for a full season.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals have options at inside linebacker. Somers on Stewart Bradley's talent relative to that of former inside linebacker Gerald Hayes: "Bradley's size and athleticism make him versatile. At 6-4, 258 pounds, Bradley gives the Cardinals a physical presence in the middle that they've lacked since Hayes was healthy. At his peak, Bradley is a better player than Hayes at his best. But Bradley can do more than take on offensive linemen. His speed makes him an asset in coverage and a capable blitzer."

More from Somers: O'Brien Schofield took to heart his demotion and criticisms from the Cardinals' coaching staff. Somers: "Schofield, a fourth-round pick in 2010 from Wisconsin, dedicated himself to studying last week. He made flash cards of formations and his responsibilities, and had Sam Acho and fellow linebacker Reggie Walker grilling him constantly. Schofield skipped pre-practice naps to study. He studied as he was receiving medical treatment and before he went to sleep. If other guys were joking during practice, he moved away from them to concentrate."

Darren Urban of links to video from Wilson's return.

Also from Urban: seeking continuity on the Cardinals' offensive line.

More from Urban: on receiver Stephen Williams' progress in Cardinals camp.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Darian Stewart is getting some work with the first-team defense ahead of Craig Dahl at strong safety. Thomas: "Stewart saw most of his action as a rookie on special teams. But late in the season he was worked in on defense, coming in on certain packages in passing situations. Stewart acknowledged that he was a bit overwhelmed at times during his rookie season. He was trying to learn both safety positions as well as his responsibilities on special teams." Dahl has a $1.6 million salary this season. Stewart's salary is $450,000.

Also from Coats: Mike Hoomanawanui could be out for a while, but Danario Alexander is practicing again.

Jeff Gordon of says Week 3 of the preseason is when the Rams' offense needs to pick up the pace.

Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explores football's harsh realities through the eyes of a few Rams players.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers thoughts on the Rams' roster during a recent chat.

Also from Thomas: The Rams are counting on Quintin Mikell. Thomas: "Mikell earned his spurs as a special teams player, twice being named the Eagles' special teams MVP. For most of those early years in Philly, Mikell bided his time at safety, backing up Pro Bowlers Brian Dawkins and Michael Lewis. As a young player, Mikell looked up to Dawkins in particular, watching everything he did."

Nick Wagoner of says the coaching staff "loves" Stewart's potential at safety.

Also from Wagoner: an appreciation for former snapper Chris Massey. Wagoner: "He was an absolute beast in the weight room, regularly registering lifting records that placed him even with or above the biggest and strongest linemen. He was a diligent student in the classroom as he’d be off the practice field and in the film room watching that day’s practice within minutes of the end of the workout."

More from Wagoner: Alexander's fight for a roster spot.

More yet from Wagoner: Mikell's impact. Wagoner: "Mikell went to the Pro Bowl following the 2009 season after he posted 90 tackles, 13 passes defended and two interceptions. Oddly enough, he did not go last year despite bettering that performance with 111 tackles, 14 passes defended, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. For his career, Mikell has 444 tackles, four sacks, 46 passes defended, 10 interceptions, seven forced fumble and seven fumble recoveries."

Clare Farnsworth of reports from the team's annual closest-to-the-pin competition precipitating the Champions Tour event sponsored in part by the team. Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who recently defended his title in the Seahawks' annual home-run derby, defended his title in this event as well. But it wasn't quite good enough to beat professional Jay Don Blake. Farnsworth: "For the record, Blake’s winning shot was 2 feet, 4 inches from the pin, while Whitehurst was second at 8 feet, 4 inches. Mike Goodes, another Senior Tour golfer who’s also in town for the Champions Tour’s Boeing Classic at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge this weekend, was next at 12 feet, 3 inches. Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate’s best effort was 15 feet, 4 inches."

Also from Farnsworth: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll acknowledges Whitehurst's progress while recommitting to Tarvaris Jackson as the team's starting quarterback.

More from Farnsworth: The Seahawks see David Vobora as a versatile backup with special-teams value. Farnsworth: "The coaches envision Vobora possibly filling the same role Will Herring did last season, when Herring was the backup at all three linebacker spots but capable of stepping in to start at any of them – and also a big contributor of special teams."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times updates the Seahawks' injury situation. Kam Chancellor missed practice.

Also from O'Neil: thoughts on Aaron Curry's new contract. O'Neil: "Seattle was not going to cut Curry. Not with the amount of money that was guaranteed under the terms of that contract both in 2011 and 2012. So why did this get done? Well, Curry was willing to give up the provision that his 2012 base salary was guaranteed in order to have the final two seasons of the contract removed. Seattle may have seen that like selling the sleeves off a vest as Curry was unlikely to remain on the team for the final two years of the contract as it was. But this kind of forces the issue with Curry's future and creates a clearer timeline that Curry may be able to find a new role -- likely with a different team -- after this season and certainly after 2012."

More from O'Neil: Brandon Browner and Josh Pinkard are making an impact in the Seahawks' secondary.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers updates from Seahawks practice. On the injury front, Ben Obomanu and Chris Clemons were back on the field.

Also from Williams: Whitehurst appears to have taken Jackson's promotion as a wake-up call.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee revisits Greg Cosell's scouting report on Taylor Mays to help explain why the safety didn't stick with the 49ers. Cosell now: "The NFL game is about lateral movement and change of direction, and he doesn't have that. ... I thought he was overall a big-time stiff, and I thought he was very lucky to be picked in the second round." Mays most likely would still be on the 49ers' roster if Mike Singletary were the team's head coach. But that would not have assured success for Mays over time. The hard feelings Mays expressed toward Carroll when the Seahawks selected Earl Thomas instead of Mays appeared misplaced at the time, and more now.

Matt Maiocco of says injury issues have prevented Shawntae Spencer from tightening his grip on the starting job at right cornerback. Spencer: "There's no use in being frustrated because it's something you can't control. It's out of my control. All I can do is what Fergie [Jeff Ferguson, director of football operations and sports medicine] tells me to do every day and try to get back as soon as I can."

Cam Inman of the San Jose Mercury News says coach Jim Harbaugh and the 49ers aren't making any bold proclamations about Alex Smith as their starting quarterback for the regular season. Inman: "Smith has started both exhibition games and is on target to secure the job ahead of rookie Colin Kaepernick and veteran Josh McCown. Smith started the first seven games last season and has a 19-31 record as a starter since being drafted first overall in 2005. Asked when he planned to announce his starting quarterback, Harbaugh replied: 'Before the first game.' That would be Sept. 11 against the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park." Smith is the starter whether or not Harbaugh makes an announcement, based simply on the fact that he continues to start preseason games.

Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says rookie tight end Konrad Reuland is making a strong push for a roster spot. Harbaugh: "He's really having a great camp. I coached him in college and I've always had great respect for Konrad's game and he's elevated here ... He is doing real well, giving himself a great chance to be in the mix and potentially make the team."

Al Sarasevic of the San Francisco Chronicle passes along Carmen Policy's thoughts on recent violence at Candlestick Park.
Darren Urban of checks in with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt for thoughts on Larry Fitzgerald's new contract. Whisenhunt: "Larry gets it, and that’s one of the reasons it was so important we got the deal done with him. He’s been a tremendous leader, he’s grown a lot in what we want him to do. It wasn’t always easy, because understanding the burden that comes on you as a great player, it’s not something that’s natural, especially someone who shies from the spotlight like Larry. When you recognize what a tremendous player he is and the accomplishments he has had over the last few years, it’s goes a long way that our team and (president) Michael Bidwill recognize that and are willing to do those deals."

Also from Urban: The Cardinals saw good things from O'Brien Schofield against Green Bay. Urban: "Schofield was all but invisible in the preseason opener, but against the Packers in the second game, he had a sack, a forced fumble, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit that forced an incompletion."

More from Urban: Cardinals notes, topped by one on running back Alfonso Smith.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals are in no hurry to add a veteran running back following Ryan Williams' season-ending injury. Whisenhunt outlined what the team will be looking for at the position: "One that can do a little bit of everything. Obviously, someone that can help on third down, but be a good first- or second-down back. But it's not something we're just going to do overnight. We're going to do some research and try and get the right fit. There may be a player on another team right now that will become available at some point."

Bob McManaman of the Arizona Republic passes along Kevin Kolb's thoughts on Fitzgerald's new contract. Kolb: "Both of us are locked up for a long time so hopefully we can build this thing for the future. I told my wife this - I don't want to be anywhere else. I want to retire here. This is the place I want to be for a long time, so I want to make sure I can do all I can to make those hopes and dreams come true and make our own hopes and dreams come true."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains how Jake McQuaide found out he'd won the snapping battle against longtime incumbent Chris Massey. Massey shared the news with McQuaide at his locker. Coats: "Age and finances almost certainly were factors in the decision. Massey was due to make $1,375,000 this year. McQuaide, a 23-year-old rookie from Ohio State, will receive the first-year minimum of $375,000. The net salary cap savings will be $500,000."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with unheralded rookies trying to earn roster spots with the Rams.

Also from Thomas: Rams injury notes, plus an item about Ben Leber and Brady Poppinga getting reps with the first-team defense. Sounds like the Rams' shaky showing against the run in the second preseason game provided an opportunity to implement moves the team was expected to make all along.

Nick Wagoner of offers thoughts on one of the Rams' receivers fighting for a roster spot. Wagoner: "Receiver Danario Alexander got an MRI on his knee on Monday. Yes, that knee, the one that’s been surgically repaired multiple times. Alexander claimed it 'felt funny' and he and the Rams agreed it was best to get it checked out. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious. Alexander has all the talent in the world and should be admired for even still playing after all he’s been through. But it’s hard to make a living in this game when you have constant problems. Here’s hoping it all works out."

Also from Wagoner: Expectations for third-year Rams tackle Jason Smith. Wagoner: "When Smith entered the league, he had a reputation for being a nasty run blocker capable of opening big holes. But Smith’s adjustment has taken some time and though he’s proved to be adept as a run blocker at times, he says he’d like to be more consistent. The addition of Harvey Dahl at right guard should help in that area. Dahl is known for his nasty disposition on the field and Smith says he can’t help but feel that attitude is infectious and going to help him be the hard-charging run blocker everyone though he could be."

Jerry Brewer of the Seattle Times says there's no reason to get worked up about the Seahawks' quarterback situation following two preseason games. Brewer: "I'm only willing to declare one absolute about the Seahawks after two exhibition games: They have more depth. They'll have some difficult decisions to make at the 53-man cut. Unlike last year, when they only liked about 45 of their players and did the super roster shuffle after the cut date, they're more likely to keep all of their guys this time, barring some impact player becoming available."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times looks at Red Bryant's impact on the Seahawks' run defense.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says this about Aaron Curry's restructured contract: "Because Curry’s salary is not guaranteed in 2012, the Seahawks could release him in February without any financial obligation. The restructured deal also makes it easier to move Curry in a trade."

Clare Farnsworth of looks at the good and bad from the team's most recent preseason game. Farnsworth: "The Seahawks were flagged 10 times for 84 wrong-way yards – eight times in the first half for 69 yards. That’s unacceptable, even if this was only the second preseason game. There were three false start penalties, a disconcerting continuation of the problem the linemen have been having in practice. But two of them were on wide receiver Mike Williams and Zach Miller. The worst infraction, however, was linebacker Aaron Curry ripping the helmet off Vikings guard Ryan Cook and then throwing it. Unacceptable? Carroll pulled Curry out of the game."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers made it clear, again, that Taylor Mays wasn't in their plans before finally trading the safety to Cincinnati. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio before the trade: "We feel good with (Donte) Whitner, him (Reggie Smith), (Dashon) Goldson, (Madieu) Williams, and (C.J.) Spillman. We feel like we've got five safeties there that can play in the NFL. Some of them have great special teams value over the others, so if we have to keep four, that will be a hard decision. If we keep five, I think they will all be different pieces that we will use during the season."

Also from Barrows: Frank Gore does not appear inclined to ask for a trade.

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says 49ers-Raiders exhibition games had to die following recent postgame violence.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News speaks with an NFL security official regarding the league's response to fan violence.

Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle offers 49ers notes, including one about Dominique Zeigler practicing for the first time since suffering a knee injury Nov. 30.

Gwen Knapp of the San Francisco Chronicle has this to say regarding the violence: "The authorities saw the local rivalry as Saturday's main storm cloud, compounded by the 5 p.m. start and the nature of exhibition tickets, which frequently end up in the hands of people who paid little or nothing for admission. Without much of an investment in the product, and minimal meaningful action on the field, these patrons tend to arrive with other forms of entertainment on their itinerary."
Quick thoughts on three developments in the NFC West, plus info on roster moves in Arizona:
  • Curry reworks contract: The Seahawks' current leadership did not make Aaron Curry the fourth player chosen in the 2009 draft. That is now better reflected in Curry's contract. My take after confirming Pro Football Talk's report that Curry's deal now ends after the 2012 season, two years earlier that it would have previously: Seattle's leadership gets out of a deal it did not make. Curry gets a shot at free agency earlier and he also becomes easier to trade. The fit hasn't been great in Seattle for either side. Curry has strong incentive to play well this season. Curry had been scheduled to earn $34 million in guarantees over the first four years of the deal. He now gets $29 million guaranteed over four years, with free agency waiting for him on the other side.
  • Rams release snapper: Chris Massey's release from the St. Louis Rams is not without precedent. The team released him once before, then re-signed him at a lower rate. This move feels more permanent. Jake McQuaide has been been competing with Massey in camp. McQuaide's deal counts less against the salary cap. The Rams drafted Massey in 2002. With his departure, 2004 first-round choice Steven Jackson becomes the earliest Rams draft choice on the roster. Ron Bartell (2005) is the only other pre-2008 Rams draft choice on the roster.
  • Seahawks sign Vobora: The Seahawks have been looking for lower-priced veteran depth at linebacker. They considered Ben Leber, but Leber signed with the Rams. Once the Rams had Leber, they released Vobora, who started 10 games for the team in 2009 and five last season. Vobora no longer fit into the Rams' plans as the team sought to upgrade with veteran depth. Seattle has gone younger at the position. Leroy Hill, who turns 29 next month, is the oldest linebacker on the team. Vobora is 25 and two days younger than Curry.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Jerome Bettis became a Hall of Fame candidate after leaving the Rams in a regrettable trade. Thomas: "If the Marshall Faulk trade in 1999 was one of the best in St. Louis sports history, the Bettis deal three years earlier was one of the worst. And ultimately, it cost coach Rich Brooks and general manager Steve Ortmayer their jobs." Bettis averaged 3.2 and 3.5 yards per carry in his final two seasons with the Rams. He then topped 1,000 yards for six consecutive seasons with the Steelers. He finished his career with 91 rushing touchdowns, three receiving touchdowns and 13,662 rushing yards. Said Brooks at the time of the trade: "I wanted a little more speed at the position. 'Jerome is an outstanding player and the Pittsburgh scheme will suit him more than my scheme will. It is a good move for Jerome.'' The Rams felt OK trading Bettis because they had recently drafted Lawrence Phillips. Oops.

Also from Thomas: says Rams receiver Mardy Gilyard underwent wrist surgery recently. Ron Bartell, Chris Chamberlain, Chris Long and Jerome Murphy have also undergone surgical procedures this offseason.

More from Thomas: If he were running the Rams, he would inquire about Chargers receiver Vincent Jackson this offseason. I would expect the Rams to be more aggressive at times in upgrading their roster. They're in better position to take an occasional risk now that they feel better about their leadership and foundation. And they certainly need to acquire weapons for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams can learn from the Steelers and Packers, who have drafted very well. Miklasz: "From 2002 through 2007, the Rams drafted 55 players, and only four remain with the team today: cornerback Ron Bartell, running back Steven Jackson, safety Oshiomogho Atogwe and long snapper Chris Massey. And only one, Jackson, has been voted to the Pro Bowl. The Rams' list of draft-day busts is lengthy and depressing. The Rams are doing better under general manager Billy Devaney. Over the last three drafts the Rams have added important franchise pieces such as quarterback Sam Bradford, middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, offensive tackles Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, defensive end Chris Long and cornerback Bradley Fletcher. The Rams may have another impact draftee in tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, and other young players have shown promise."

Brian Stull of 101ESPN St. Louis marks the 11-year anniversary of the Rams' Super Bowl victory over Tennessee.

Matt Maiocco of sizes up the 49ers' coaching staff, noting that the team still needs a tight ends coach. Maiocco lists the following coaches as retained from Mike Singletary's staff: Tom Rathman, Mike Solari, Jim Tomsula and Bill Nayes.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers are raising -- and lowering -- ticket prices for the 2011 season. Barrows: "According to the 49ers, the average cost of an NFL ticket in 2010 was $101. A 49ers ticket averaged $77 in 2010 and will rise to $83 in 2011. The team also notes that it offers a $59 lower-bowl ticket, which is one of the lowest costs in the league for that level."

Glen Creno of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals ownership has purchased a landmark restaurant where team president Michael Bidwill hung out during his days as a federal prosecutor. Creno: "Tom's has been around in various incarnations for more than 80 years, but it was put up for sale last year when its owner, Michael Ratner, could no longer spend the time he wanted running the place. He was spending most of his time in treatment for esophageal cancer and said that if a buyer couldn't be found, the restaurant would be closed."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals to accelerate efforts to land a defensive coordinator beginning Monday or Tuesday following the Super Bowl. Somers: "There appear to be at least five candidates. Even though Steelers coordinator Dick LeBeau has said he won't coach anywhere else than Pittsburgh in 2011, I think Ken Whisenhunt will at least inquire. ... Steelers linebackers coach Keith Butler is another prime target. But the Steelers gave him a new contract a year ago and made him 'coordinator in waiting.' The Steelers might well deny Whisenhunt permission. Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton will also draw some interest. ... The Packers run a similar defensive scheme, with the 3-4 as their base alignment. Assistant head coach Winston Moss is highly regarded and coaches the inside linebackers. Safeties coach Darren Perry worked with Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh and is well-versed in LeBeau's system. The Packers have other young assistants, namely cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, Jr., who are regarded as up and comers, but they are not believed to be under consideration by the Cardinals at this time."

Joe Reedy of the Cincinnati Enquirer lists recently fired Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates as a potential candidate to replace another former Seattle coordinator, Bob Bratkowski, as the Bengals' offensive coordinator.

Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal says former Seahawks defensive line coach Dwaine Board will coach the Browns' defensive line under new coach Pat Shurmur. Board worked under Browns president Mike Holmgren in Seattle.

Draft hindsight: Big Ben and beyond

January, 31, 2011
SteelersUS PresswirePittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, Hines Ward and LaMarr Woodley are all playing in Super Bowl XLV, but could they have ended up in the NFC West coming out of college?
FORT WORTH, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers appeared loose and comfortable during their first Super Bowl 45 media session.

They've been in big games before, and frequently, thanks largely to shrewd drafting.

This is the Steelers' third Super Bowl appearance in the last six seasons.

The team made available James Farrior, Flozell Adams, Hines Ward, Brett Keisel, Ben Roethlisberger and LaMarr Woodley during its initial media session Monday -- just the opportunity I needed to produce an item corresponding to the one titled, "Draft hindsight: Aaron Rodgers and beyond".

The idea: to examine a Super Bowl team's featured players -- in this case, the ones made available Monday -- with an emphasis on draft status and the decisions NFC West teams made in the same rounds. Not every team held a choice in every featured round.

The Arizona Cardinals had a shot at Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, but they came out OK.

Here goes ...

1997 Draft: James Farrior, LB, Virginia

Round: First (eighth overall, by the New York Jets)

NFC West spin: Farrior is a two-time Pro Bowl choice, but the NFC West offers no apologies for passing over him. Orlando Pace and Walter Jones became perennial Pro Bowl tackles. Jones became the best player in Seahawks history, in my view. Shawn Springs made one Pro Bowl trip and picked off 33 passes during a 13-year career. The Cardinals had no shot at Farrior. They chose Tommy Knight one pick later. He started 54 games in six NFL seasons. Rumor says the 49ers selected a quarterback in the first round of this draft.

First-round selections in the division:

  • Rams (first overall): Pace, T, Ohio State
  • Seahawks (third overall): Springs, CB, Ohio State
  • Seahawks (sixth overall): Jones, T, Florida State
  • Cardinals (ninth overall): Knight, CB, Iowa
  • 49ers (26th overall): Jim Druckenmiller, QB, Virginia Tech
1998 Draft: Flozell Adams, T, Michigan State

Round: Second (38th overall, by Dallas)

NFC West spin: Adams became a five-time Pro Bowl choice with Dallas. His career appeared finished, or close to it, until injuries led the Steelers to call on him this season. Arizona passed on Adams twice. Safety Corey Chavous, chosen five spots before Adams, went to a Pro Bowl with Minnesota. He was a productive player for roughly a decade. Tackle Anthony Clement, chosen two spots before Adams, started more than 100 games for three teams.

Second-round selections in the division:

  • Cardinals (33rd overall): Corey Chavous, SS, Vanderbilt
  • Cardinals (36th overall): Anthony Clement, T, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Rams (37th overall): Robert Holcombe, FB, Illinois
  • Seahawks (47th overall): Todd Weiner, T, Kansas State
  • 49ers (58th overall): Jeremy Newberry, C, California
1998 Draft: Hines Ward, WR, Georgia

Round: Third (92nd overall, by Pittsburgh)

NFC West spin: The Rams and Seahawks found Pro Bowl-caliber players when they passed over Ward in the third round. Seattle gave up on Ahman Green prematurely, however, after coach Mike Holmgren grew weary of early fumble problems. The 49ers missed on tackle Chris Ruhman three choices before Ward went to Pittsburgh. Ruhman played in six games with the 49ers, starting none. He played in 11 NFL games with two starts overall. The 49ers passed on Ward even though Jerry Rice had suffered a devastating knee injury in the 1997 opener.

Third-round selections in the division:

  • Rams (65th overall): Leonard Little, DE, Tennessee
  • Seahawks (76th overall): Ahman Green, RB, Nebraska
  • 49ers (89th overall): Chris Ruhman, T, Texas A&M
2002 Draft: Brett Keisel, DE, BYU

Round: Seventh (242nd overall, by Pittsburgh)

NFC West spin: The 49ers drafted longtime starting guard and center Eric Heitmann three spots before the Steelers found Keisel. Pittsburgh could use Heitmann this week after the Steelers' starting center, Maurkice Pouncey, suffered a severely sprained ankle during the AFC Championship Game. Keisel became a Pro Bowl choice for the first time this season, distinguishing him from 2002 NFC West seventh-rounders. The Rams found their mainstay snapper in this draft. Keisel was gone when the 49ers found guard Kyle Kosier, who started 29 games for them and remains a starter with Dallas.

Seventh-round selections in the division:

  • Cardinals (223rd overall): Mike Banks, TE, Iowa State
  • Seahawks (232nd overall): Jeff Kelly, QB, Southern Mississippi
  • 49ers (239th overall): Heitmann, C, Stanford
  • Rams (243rd overall): Chris Massey, LS, Marshall
  • 49ers (248th overall): Kyle Kosier, G, Arizona State
  • 49ers (256th overall): Teddy Gaines, DB, Tennessee
2004 Draft: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, Miami of Ohio

Round: First (11th overall, by Pittsburgh)

NFC West spin: The Cardinals passed over Roethlisberger and came away with a potential Hall of Fame receiver. No complaints there, even though quarterbacks are more valuable than receivers. None of the other NFC West teams had a shot at Roethlisberger. Seattle and St. Louis were set at quarterback, anyway.

First-round selections in the division: 2007 Draft: LaMarr Woodley, OLB, Michigan

Round: Second (46th overall, by Pittsburgh)

NFC West spin: The Cardinals could certainly use Woodley now, and badly, but they had already invested millions in the position heading into the 2007 draft. Free-agent additions Chike Okeafor and Bertrand Berry had combined for 14.5 sacks during the 2006 season. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they haven't gotten enough from their second-round investment in Alan Branch.

Second-round selections in the division:

  • Cardinals (33rd overall): Branch, DL, Michigan
  • Rams (52nd overall): Brian Leonard, FB, Rutgers
  • Seahawks (55th overall): Josh Wilson, CB, Maryland

OK, all done, and just in time. teammates Mike Reiss, Kevin Seifert and I are heading out to the Packers' media session next. Seifert is driving and he doesn't wait for anyone. Gotta jam.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams are looking for their first victory over Seattle since the 2004 season. Chris Massey and Steven Jackson are the only current St. Louis players to experience victory over the Seahawks as members of the Rams. Thomas on that 2004 victory: "The entire Rams rookie class was in high school. The Rams were the defending NFC West champions. And sellouts, the kind where every ticket actually gets sold, happened every Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome." Shaun Alexander rushed for 176 yards in that 2004 game, but Matt Hasselbeck completed only 15 of 36 attempts with one interception and a 45.1 rating. Marshall Faulk carried 18 times for 139 yards. Jackson, a rookie, had 10 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown. Chike Okeafor (Seattle) and Adam Archuleta (St. Louis) were the leading tacklers for each team.

Also from Thomas: thoughts on whether James Laurinaitis is approaching elite status.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with new Rams running back Chauncey Washington, who considers himself famous even without "Hard Knocks." Washington: "I think I was famous before that. Just maybe you guys didn't know about me. But on the West Coast, I'm famous."

Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat passes along this comment from Washington: "I got drafted by Jacksonville and I was there with Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Cowboys with Marion Barber and Julius Jones, and then I got the opportunity to go to the Jets and be with Thomas Jones and L.T. (LaDainian Tomlinson). I think everywhere I have been I have been blessed to be able to learn from the great backs. I think here I am going to continue to learn from Steven Jackson." He was with Reggie Bush and LenDale White at USC.

Nick Wagoner of says John Greco gave the Rams' running game a boost when he got reps at right guard against the Redskins.

Also from Wagoner: The Rams sought to move on from their 30-16 victory over Washington even though victories have been scarce.

Clare Farnsworth of says the team practiced in full pads for 100 minutes Wednesday. Also: "Rookie Walter Thurmond worked at left cornerback for (Marcus) Trufant, Will Herring was at strong-side linebacker for (Aaron) Curry and Junior Siavii and Kentwan Balmer got work at tackle for (Brandon) Mebane."

Also from Farnsworth: a look at changing dynamics on the Seahawks' offensive line.

John Morgan of Field Gulls offers thoughts on the Seahawks' blitzes against San Diego. Morgan: "Maybe not all of the blitzes worked, but quite a few did, and while San Diego was chewing yards, they were playing snap after snap on the verge of turnover."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times offers an interview transcript featuring comments from Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Bradley on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford: "Even if he does get sacked or throws a bad ball, he bounces back and will come back and throw a nice ball. One stat that impressed me, I think he's like third in the league with passes over 30 yards. So he has done a nice job for their team, and doesn't make many mistakes. He's real impressive."

Greg Johns of says the Seahawks were happy to have Russell Okung and Chester Pitts practicing Wednesday. Ben Hamilton and Sean Locklear rested knee injuries.

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Okung wore a brace on his heavily wrapped ankle.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says newly acquired Seahawks receiver Brandon Stokley could give the Seahawks what Bobby Engram once gave them. Stokley on what he can offer: "Veteran leadership … a guy who is willing to do whatever it takes to help win football games. … I just love to compete. I’m a guy who’s not worried about stats or individual accolades, I just try to do whatever it takes to win games."

Todd Fredrickson of the Everett Herald says Seahawks safety Earl Thomas felt like he was back at Texas Tech when defending the Chargers' all-out passing attack.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic looks at the challenges Arizona faces at receiver with Steve Breaston and Early Doucet unavailable. Somers: "Playing with inexperienced receivers is not ideal, however, and the Cardinals could make adjustments in scheme and personnel to compensate. They could go to more to formations using two tight ends, or use a running back as a slot receiver."

Also from Somers: Philip Rivers once served as Adrian Wilson's chauffeur.

Darren Urban of says LaRod Stephens-Howling met with the couple for whom his return touchdown secured a new home as part of a promotion. Said the husband: "He's got a place to stay forever."

Also from Urban: why it's tough to add a new quarterback during the season.

More from Urban: The Cardinals liked their young receivers better than any they might have signed off the street.

More still from Urban: Arizona could have an edge on special teams against the Chargers in Week 4.

Matt Maiocco of passes along these thoughts from Mike Singletary regarding 49ers quarterback Alex Smith: "I don't think I've ever underestimated the quarterback situation. I think the quarterback is very important. Do I think he's the most important? No, I don't. A great example is the game we played on Sunday. I think (Chiefs quarterback) Matt Cassel is a good quarterback. Do I think he's a great quarterback? Do I think he's the most important part of that offense? No, I do not. But they won the game. If I'm a passing team, if I'm the Indianapolis Colts, yes, I think the quarterback is the most important part of the team. If I'm the New England Patriots, I think the quarterback is the most important part of that offense. The 49ers right now, I feel the quarterback is very important. But I don't think he's the most important part of our offense. I think there are 11 guys, and on this offense I want 11 guys to know that each and every one of them on every play is important." Quarterback is the most important position on any team, and if he is just one of 11 equals, the team will have a harder time beating the best teams.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says Singletary went with Mike Johnson at offensive coordinator after Johnson provided Singletary a list, upon request, of things he would do differently. Smith: "I do think there will be more variation. I think personnel and formations and things like that, there will be some different things. I think we'll find out how they're going to play certain personnel, find out how they're going to play certain formations and then go from there."

Also from Barrows: Singletary lost his cool and got into a shouting match with Falcons guard Harvey Dahl the last time the 49ers faced Atlanta. Almost forgot about that one.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' offense will strive to be more flexible. Barber: "Smith conceded the offense hasn't been 'real dynamic' this season and suggested that its inability to adjust to opposing defenses was part of the problem. Smith stressed the importance of being flexible and said Johnson shares his beliefs."

Cam Inman of Bay Area News Group says the 49ers' defense shouldn't get a free pass with all the focus on the team's new offensive coordinator.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers are not considering a quarterback change. They don't appear to have a viable alternative.

Post-camp roster analysis: Rams

September, 1, 2010
The St. Louis Rams hold the No. 1 priority for waiver claims and they'll probably put that status to work following the mandatory reduction to 53 players Saturday.

With that in mind, let's take a position-by-position look at the Rams' roster heading into their second season under coach Steve Spagnuolo (current roster counts listed in parentheses):

Quarterbacks (4)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.9

Keepers: Sam Bradford, A.J. Feeley

Looking safe: Keith Null

On the bubble: Thaddeus Lewis

Comment: Lewis has played well enough to intrigue the Rams, but probably not well enough for another team to claim him off waivers. That makes Lewis a natural choice for the practice squad.

Running backs (5)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Steven Jackson, Mike Karney

Looking safe: Kenneth Darby

Not sure what to think: Keith Toston, Chris Ogbonnaya

Comment: The Rams are carrying as many running backs as teams typically keep, but multiple spots could be up for grabs depending on which running backs become available via waivers. I'd rather list Toston, Ogbonnaya and Darby in one group until it becomes clear which backs -- and which types of backs -- hit the waiver wire. Ogbonnaya showed potential last season and looked good early in camp, but his performance hasn't carried over to exhibition games and that could cost him. Perhaps expectations were too high. Darby's toughness and special-teams contributions could help him. Toston runs hard and could land on the practice squad.

Wide receivers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 5.3

Keepers: Laurent Robinson, Mardy Gilyard, Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson, Keenan Burton

On the bubble: Dominique Curry

Also: Brandon McRae, Jordan Kent, Danario Alexander

Comment: Curry stood out as an undrafted steal during camp. He has excellent size and has showed good ability on special teams. Burton's durability should remain a concern, but that's the case with Robinson and even Gibson at this point. Gibson's value rises with Donnie Avery on injured reserve.

Tight ends (6)

Average number kept since 2003: 3.0

Keepers: Billy Bajema, Mike Hoomanawanui

Looking safe: Fendi Onobun

Not sure what to think: Daniel Fells, Darcy Johnson

Also: Dennis Morris

Comment: But wait, Fells is the incumbent starter, right? Yes, but he hasn't been durable and there's so much to like about the rookies Onobun and Hoomanawanui. Bajema is an obvious keeper for his blocking and all-around game (he has caught the ball well on limited chances). Johnson has shown toughness and blocking ability, so he could be an option if the team wants to move on from Fells. Perhaps I'm over thinking things here, but the emergence of Onobun and Hoomanawanui during camp creates dilemmas.

Offensive linemen (13)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.3

Keepers: Jason Brown, Jacob Bell, Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith, Adam Goldberg, Hank Fraley

Looking safe: John Greco, Roger Allen III

Also: Eric Young, Drew Miller, Ryan McKee, Renardo Foster, Tim Mattran

Comment: It's tough finding nine keepers here, so the Rams could be active in the waiver-claim game. Greco's versatility works in his favor. Are the Rams still high on Allen's prospects? I know they liked him last season, but that was before reconstructive knee surgery. Trading Alex Barron made sense in the big picture, but the Rams would have better depth here if Barron were still around.

Defensive line (12)

Average number kept since 2003: 8.6

Keepers: Chris Long, Fred Robbins, Clifton Ryan, James Hall, Gary Gibson, Darell Scott

Looking safe: George Selvie

On the bubble: Victor Adeyanju, C.J. Ah You, Jermelle Cudjo

Also: Ernest Reid, Eugene Sims

Comment: Durability concerns could cost Ah You. Adeyanju also could be on the bubble depending on what options the Rams have beyond their own roster. Cudjo has made a positive impression during camp and preseason. Same goes for Selvie, although an injury sidelined him part of the time.

Linebackers (9)

Average number kept since 2003: 6.3

Keepers: James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant, Na'il Diggs, Chris Chamberlain

Looking safe: Bobby Carpenter

On the bubble: David Vobora, Josh Hull

Also: Devin Bishop, Cardia Jackson

Comment: Carpenter has gotten some work at defensive end. Perhaps his presence in an emergency capacity at that position could allow the Rams to keep one fewer defensive lineman, at least early. Chamberlain is probably the best special-teams position player on the Rams, enhancing his value. Hull could provide depth behind Laurinaitis because he's a true middle linebacker, whereas Vobora can back up every position. That could be a close call.

Defensive backs (14)

Average number kept since 2003: 9.7

Keepers: Oshiomogho Atogwe, Ron Bartell, Justin King, Bradley Fletcher, James Butler, Kevin Payne, Craig Dahl, Jerome Murphy, Kevin Dockery

Looking safe: Quincy Butler

On the bubble: Darian Stewart

Also: Brett Johnson, Marquis Johnson, Antoine Thompson

Comment: James Butler's knee injury probably makes keeping Payne a higher priority. Stewart could be a candidate for the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

Average number kept since 2003: 2.7

Keepers: Josh Brown, Donnie Jones, Chris Massey

Comment: Strong group here.

Valuing that veteran seasoning

August, 11, 2010
Age can be a sensitive subject, even in the NFL. Especially in the NFL, where a couple down seasons past age 30 can leave even accomplished players on the outside.

Teams try to find the right mix of youth, players in their primes and older veterans.

The St. Louis Rams, one of the NFL's youngest teams last season, signed a few players well in their 30s this offseason as they tried to add seasoning. Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt pointed to veteran leadership as one of the things he likes about his roster.

I've gone through NFC West rosters to see how many players in their 30s each team employs. The numbers were about what I would have expected.
Arizona (13): punter Ben Graham 36, defensive tackle Bryan Robinson 36, kicker Jay Feely 34, snapper Mike Leach 33, guard Alan Faneca 33, linebacker Clark Haggans 33, linebacker Joey Porter 33, tight end Anthony Becht 33, linebacker Paris Lenon 32, linebacker Monty Beisel 31, safety Adrian Wilson 30, tackle Jeremy Bridges 30, center Ben Claxton 30.

San Francisco (13): kicker Joe Nedney 37, tackle Barry Sims 35, snapper Brian Jennings 33, linebacker Takeo Spikes 33, fullback Moran Norris 32, cornerback William James 31, quarterback David Carr 31, guard Tony Wragge 30, defensive end Demetric Evans 30, defensive end Justin Smith 30, cornerback Nate Clements 30, center Eric Heitmann 30, safety Michael Lewis 30.

Seattle (10): kicker Olindo Mare 37, safety Lawyer Milloy 36, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck 34, guard Ben Hamilton 32, receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh 32, guard Chester Pitts 31, receiver Deion Branch 31, tight end Chris Baker 30, defensive tackle Craig Terrill 30, defensive tackle Colin Cole 30.

St. Louis (8): defensive end James Hall 33, defensive tackle Fred Robbins 33, quarterback A.J. Feeley 33, center Hank Fraley 32, linebacker Na'il Diggs 32, kicker Josh Brown 31, snapper Chris Massey 30 and punter Donnie Jones 30.

Several other players turn 30 this season: nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin (49ers), guard Adam Goldberg (Rams), linebacker Gerald Hayes (Cardinals), kicker Shane Andrus (49ers), guard Reggie Wells (Cardinals) and cornerback Marcus Trufant (Seahawks).

Steven Jackson 'somewhat cleared'

July, 27, 2010
St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo took some heat early this offseason for replacing the team's longtime trainer.

The new trainer, Reggie Scott, was hired from the Carolina Panthers in part to create an atmosphere and trust level that would more fully engage players to rehabilitate at the Rams' facility during the offseason. Panthers receiver Steve Smith and former Panthers defensive end Julius Jones recommended Scott highly as a trainer who made players feel comfortable. Spagnuolo alluded to that subject Tuesday when telling reporters he expected most of the team's injured -- notably running back Steven Jackson -- to participate in training camp from the beginning.

"I think Reggie and his group did a great, tremendous job in the offseason here, this break," Spagnuolo told reporters. "These guys were in here working."

The team might proceed somewhat cautiously with Jackson, at least for a while. The Pro Bowl runner underwent back surgery after suffering a herniated disk.

"He’s somewhat cleared to go," Spagnuolo said. "We want the doctors to look at him one more time, but he feels great. Probably, only because it’s a back, we’ll tread lightly. But I think he’ll do most everything."

Spagnuolo said the Rams would "be smart about it" when determining how much Jackson would play during the exhibition season. The Rams are hopeful that injured players Roger Allen, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Daniel Fells, Bradley Fletcher, Jason Smith, Jacob Bell, Chris Massey and Rodger Saffold will be healthy enough to practice.

What PUP designations mean

July, 27, 2010
NFL teams are starting to declare players "physically unable to perform" as they convene for training camps.

Wes Welker of the New England Patriots recently became a high-profile addition to a PUP list. We'll see NFC West teams take advantage of PUP lists as well, making this a good time to lay out exactly what PUP status means for players.

Players who do not pass physical examinations before training camp cannot practice. Teams place these players on their PUP lists. The players remain on the active roster and count against 80-man limits. They can come off the PUP list and begin practicing as soon as they pass physical examinations.

Players remaining on PUP lists at the Sept. 4 mandatory reduction to 53 players are not eligible to play until after the first six games. They continue to receive their salaries in full.

The chart shows current NFC West players who finished the 2009 season on NFC West injured reserve lists. Some could be candidates for PUP lists as camps open. Their ages are rounded down to the nearest tenth, making it easy to see, for example, that Rams long snapper Chris Massey is much closer to 31 than he is to 30.

Some players not shown in the chart could be candidates for PUP lists.

The Arizona Cardinals Gerald Hayes is one obvious candidate. The St. Louis Rams have said they expect Steven Jackson to be recovered from back surgery in time for camp. The Seattle Seahawks' T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch and Leon Washington have missed time recovering from surgeries this offseason.

There's not necessarily reason for panic when a team places a high-profile player on its PUP list to open camp. Sometimes the player misses only a short time.

On the radar: Surprise injuries

June, 24, 2010
NFC On the Radar: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A player, coach or issue that should be on your radar as training camp approaches.

A sore hip bothered Kurt Warner at Arizona Cardinals camp last summer. It wasn't a big deal.

[+] EnlargePatrick WIllis
Brett Davis/US PresswirePatrick Willis has already practiced after his offseason knee surgery and will seemingly be ready for training camp.
Two summers ago, the Seattle Seahawks downplayed Matt Hasselbeck's bad back because they didn't know the full extent of the problem. That one turned out to be more serious than expected.

Having the right feel for each injury situation can be tough. I'm sure a surprise injury or two will become a story after NFC West teams report for training camps in late July.

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis (knee), St. Louis Rams running back Steven Jackson (back), Arizona Cardinals cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (knee) and Seattle Seahawks middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (pectoral) are among the high-profile NFC West players coming off surgery rehabs. Their situations will bear monitoring.

The following players ended last season on injured reserve (some are no longer with NFC West teams):

Arizona Cardinals

Matt Ware, Mike Gandy, Justin Green, Cody Brown

San Francisco 49ers

Tony Pashos, Ricky Schmitt, Thomas Clayton, Jeff Ulbrich, Walt Harris, Kentwan Balmer, Curtis Taylor

Seattle Seahawks

Tyler Roehl, Walter Jones, Kevin Houser, Brandon Frye, Tatupu, Mike Hass

St. Louis Rams

Marc Bulger, Adam Carriker, Oshiomogho Atogwe, Eric Bassey, C.J. Ah You, Brooks Foster, Gary Gibson, Jacob Bell, Daniel Fells, Chris Massey, Bradley Fletcher, Laurent Robinson, Keenan Burton
The Rams added 11 players in the 2010 NFL draft, pushing Steve Spagnuolo past Scott Linehan for the coach with the most draft choices on the team's roster.

Adding quality must remain a top priority, however.

The Rams have more of their own seventh-round choices -- eight -- than any team in the league.

Ten choices remain from the Scott Linehan era: Clifton Ryan, Keenan Burton, Donnie Avery, Justin King, Chris Chamberlain, David Vobora, Mark Setterstrom, Chris Long, John Greco and Victor Adeyanju.

Five remain from the Mike Martz era: Ron Bartell, Steven Jackson, Chris Massey and unsigned restricted free agents Alex Barron and Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News offers thoughts and observations on outgoing 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan. Kawakami: "I think McCloughan’s a pretty good judge of talent. I think he’s loyal and probably was too loyal to Mike Nolan over their first three-plus years together. I think McCloughan was not totally on-board with the promoting of Mike Singletary as interim coach, but McCloughan made it work. (He wasn’t on-board with the hiring of Mike Martz as OC the year before, and that DIDN’T work.) ... I think McCloughan was learning on the job, and I think he definitely upgraded the talent level of the roster. But yes, there were things I’d wondered about–periods when McCloughan was not seen or heard from, at least publicly, which I always thought was strange for an NFL GM. I don’t know if that’s tied to what is forcing him out. I presume it is, but I could be wrong. Maybe Scot will explain it to us at some point."

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says McCloughan is on his way out. White: "According to multiple sources, the dismissal is strictly for personal reasons involving McCloughan and no one else. This move is not for football reasons and no crime was involved."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers locked out reporters from their facility and declined to comment on McCloughan's status, all while McCloughan watched an NCAA tournament game in San Jose. Barrows: "The only thing that is certain at the moment is that McCloughan is not taking part in the day-to-day operation of the team."

Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Paraag Marathe, recently promoted to executive vice president of football and business operations, could assume more power on the football side. Also: "McCloughan did not report to the 49ers’ offices in Santa Clara on Thursday, and sources indicate his departure from the organization is imminent."

Also from Maiocco: 49ers coach Mike Singletary could influence the 49ers' draft board in the coming weeks.

Rob Rang of says the 49ers' draft will have McCloughan's fingerprints all over it even if the GM isn't involved on draft day. Rang: "While the perception is that draft boards are fluctuating every day with the improved workouts players are putting forth in Pro Days across the country, in reality, much of the hard work in preparing for the 2010 draft has already been done. Whether he's the one actually making the pick or not, the 49ers 2010 draft will have Scot McCloughan's fingerprints on it. Considering that the 49ers appear poised to take control of the NFC West -- largely based on players McCloughan drafted -- that's a good thing."

Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers need a new general manager and one with gravitas. Cohn: "Who is that person? Please tell me. Is there anyone in the 49ers organization capable of identifying that man and persuading him to sign on? I don't see anyone like that. And let's face it, the departure of McCloughan so unexpectedly and at precisely the wrong time is a terrible indicator of the 49ers' present state and a horrible omen for the future."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the atmosphere was casual when the Seahawks introduced new quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and said he would challenge Matt Hasselbeck. Coach Pete Carroll: "We would not have done this if we didn't think we were bringing in a highly competitive player. We're counting on Matt to lead this thing, and Charlie is going to take his shot at it every turn."

Greg Johns of explains why Carroll likes his new quarterback: "Carroll said Whitehurst fits what the Seahawks are looking for in their offensive system: a big, athletic quarterback with good mobility and a strong arm."

Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune says Seahawks general manager John Schneider has been sizing up Whitehurst for years. Williams: "Schneider said the first time he saw Whitehurst was as college quarterback at Clemson in 2005, where Whitehurst threw well in bad weather for a workout in front of NFL scouts. Schneider said Whithurst’s performance stuck with him, and he considered him a player with a lot of potential."

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune says the Seahawks' new leadership hasn't earned full trust. Boling: "What they have going for them is that what’s been done in the recent past hasn’t worked. And starting over seems a reasonable approach."

John Morgan of Field Gulls sounds unimpressed by Chris Clemons, acquired by Seattle from Philadelphia.

Darren Urban of says it's hardly a given that Neil Rackers will return to the Cardinals. Urban: "The things that make Rackers so valuable — his quirky ability to do crazy, effective onside kicks and his kamikaze willingness to tackle on kickoffs — are also the things (because of the mentality needed) that give pause when it comes to the end of games. Personally, I hope Rackers returns, because he is a weapon in so many facets. But that’s far from a lock right now."

Also from Urban: Matt Leinart says he's hungrier than ever heading toward the 2010 season as the Cardinals' starter. Leinart: "I know I can be a starter in this league, but when you have Kurt (Warner) in front of you , a veteran going to the Hall of Fame, you know your position and you have to prepare just having to be ready if the opportunity comes. Now, it’s a totally different mindset because this is my time, the opportunity I have wanted and it is here. I am more focused and hungrier than I have every been in my entire football career, college and pro."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams met with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford in Florida.

Also from Thomas: Chris Massey gets a new contract. Willie Parker, Reggie Hayward, Jason McKie and Kevin Dockery visit the Rams, with Jimmy Wilkerson on the way.

Howard Balzer of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat breaks down the Rams' free agents and those the team has signed. Balzer: "James Hall was a leader in the locker room and a solid contributor. His age works against him, but there's not a lot of depth at the position. Hall visited New Orleans, but left without signing a contract."

Updated: NFC West UFA list

March, 12, 2010
The Cardinals remain the only NFC West team to re-sign any of their unrestricted free agents this offseason.

That is mostly by design.

Twenty-seven of 31 remaining unrestricted free agents from NFC West teams are at least 30 years old. Two are retiring. Two of the four still in their 20s are 29.

The chart shows remaining UFAs from the NFC West, arranged by team and by age.

NFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 3, 2010
Arizona Cardinals

Unrestricted free agents: TE Anthony Becht, LB Monty Beisel, LB Bertrand Berry (retired), LT Jeremy Bridges, CB Ralph Brown, LB Karlos Dansby, LT Mike Gandy, FB Dan Kreider, WR Sean Morey, LB Chike Okeafor, K Neil Rackers, NT Bryan Robinson, QB Brian St. Pierre, S Matt Ware.

Restricted free agents: SS Hamza Abdullah, WR Steve Breaston, G Ben Claxton, FB Justin Green, LG Deuce Lutui, TE Ben Patrick, C Lyle Sendlein, TE Stephen Spach, WR Jerheme Urban, NT Gabe Watson.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Cardinals generally do not pursue marquee free agents from other teams. That trend figures to continue. The Cardinals have too many of their own free agents to re-sign for them to worry about chasing other teams' castoffs. We might see Arizona plug the roster with a few lower-tier free agents. They had success doing that last offseason, particularly with Becht at tight end. Dansby leads the list of 2009 starters expected to depart. Arizona is reportedly interested in quarterback David Carr.

St. Louis Rams

Unrestricted free agents: QB Kyle Boller, DE James Hall, SS Clinton Hart, LB Paris Lenon, DE Leonard Little, LS Chris Massey, TE Randy McMichael.

Restricted free agents: S Eric Bassey, S Craig Dahl, TE Daniel Fells, LS Ryan Neill, DT Clifton Ryan, CB Jonathan Wade, DE Victory Adeyanju, FS Oshiomogho Atogwe, T Alex Barron, RB Sam Gado, DT Gary Gibson, WR Ruvell Martin, G Mark Setterstrom.

Franchise player: none

What to expect: The Rams could be in the market for a veteran quarterback such as Chad Pennington. Beyond quarterback, coach Steve Spagnuolo said the Rams could use a little more seasoning in the form of veteran role players. The Rams will remain a young team, but they could add some experience. The team parted with players fitting that profile last offseason, but most had inflated salaries. The ones St. Louis adds this year figure to carry lower price tags in most cases. The Rams have said they want Little and Hall back. McMichael figures to be gone.

Seattle Seahawks

Unrestricted free agents: WR Nate Burleson, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LB D.D. Lewis, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, S Lawyer Milloy, DE Cory Redding, LS Jeff Robinson.

Restricted free agents: T Brandon Frye, WR Ben Obomanu, LB Lance Laury, G Rob Sims, G Chris Spencer, DE Darryl Tapp.

Franchise player: K Olindo Mare

What to expect: The Seahawks are a little difficult to figure. Their owner has the money to bankroll aggressive spending if Seattle chooses to go that route. Coach Pete Carroll surely realizes the team could use talent upgrades. The new general manager, John Schneider, comes from the Ted Thompson school of personnel. Thompson's aversion for free agency is well established, although Schneider has characterized himself as slightly more aggressive. The problem, of course, is finding good players on the market. Burleson will hit the market. He could return if the price is right. Carroll has said nice things about Redding, who should be affordable.

San Francisco 49ers

Unrestricted free agents: WR Arnaz Battle, CB Dre Bly, CB Walt Harris, T Tony Pashos, FS Mark Roman, T Barry Sims, LB Jeff Ulbrich (retired), LB Matt Wilhelm.

Restricted free agents: LG David Baas, LB Ahmad Brooks, CB Marcus Hudson.

Franchise player: NT Aubrayo Franklin

What to expect: The 49ers have largely turned their back on free agency now that they feel better about their roster. I would expect the team to lay low again when the signing period begins late Thursday night on the West Coast.