NFC West: Edward Jones Dome
That is because the 49ers must funnel 70 percent of the 20-year, $220.3 million payout to the local stadium authority in Santa Clara. That leaves about $66.1 million to the 49ers, less than what other NFC West teams will receive from their naming-rights deals. I would consider that a price paid for getting a stadium built in California with public support, something teams have struggled to accomplish.
The other NFC West teams keep 100 percent of their naming-rights cuts. That is not the full story, however. For example, the Arizona Cardinals received a 100 percent cut of their $154.5 million naming-rights deal after agreeing to cover millions in construction overruns. The Seahawks were also responsible for millions in cost overruns. Their naming-rights deal requires them to use proceeds for maintenance, upgrades and a fund for youth fields.
The chart provides an overview for naming-rights deals in the division, with figures coming from media reports. The 49ers and Seahawks signed deals with sponsor options to purchase additional years. I'll update the figures if and when new information becomes available. As noted, the figures come from media reports.
The St. Louis Rams moved closer to securing a new stadium in St. Louis or elsewhere Friday when an arbiter chose the team's proposal for Edward Jones Dome upgrades over a cheaper proposal from the city's stadium authority.
The decision comes as no shock. It's the latest step in a process set forth in the existing lease agreement. The agreement compelled the stadium authority to provide the Rams with one of the NFL's eight best stadiums by 2015. The sides made competing proposals. An arbiter chose the Rams' proposal.
The stadium authority now has 30 days to accept or reject the Rams' proposal, which called for massive and expensive overhauls to the Edward Jones Dome. A rejection is more likely. At that point, the Rams' lease, currently set to run through 2025, would convert to a year-by-year basis beginning in 2015.
Every one of the Rams' division rivals has built a new stadium since 2002 or is building one now. The Rams will want a new one, too. They now have additional leverage to get one.
Analysts widely projected Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon to the St. Louis Rams in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
The Jacksonville Jaguars selected Blackmon instead, and that is looking like a good thing for St. Louis after authorities in Oklahoma charged the rookie with aggravated DUI.
If Blackmon indeed registered a .24 percent blood-alcohol level, as reported, a reasonable person can look at his 2010 DUI arrest and fear a problem more serious than a simple (but serious) lapse in judgment from a 22-year-old.
A man weighing as much as Blackmon (207 pounds) might have to consume 16 beers over a three-hour period to approach a .24 percent blood-alcohol reading. Consuming 24 beers -- a full case -- over an 11-hour period could produce a similar result, according to one online calculator. Other calculators produce slightly different results depending on a range of factors. A calculator provided by the Office of Alcohol and Drug Education at the University of Notre Dame says 14 shots of 80-proof liquor over a two-hour period could produce a .24 percent reading in a 207-pound man.
Those are not the sort of stats a team wants associated with its first-round draft choice (or anyone, for that matter).
Of course, Blackmon has only been arrested, not convicted. It's possible the .24 percentage reading was made in error. For now, however, the Rams should feel better about their decisions to trade down in the first round, leaving Blackmon for the Jaguars.
And now, our regular spin around the division ...
Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers details on the Rams' efforts to upgrade the Edward Jones Dome. Hathaway on the arbitration process, which will begin June 15 in the absence of an agreement between the team and city: "At the end of this process, the arbitrators must either endorse one of the existing renovation proposals or, more likely, develop a separate plan that the arbitrators believe will meet the first-tier requirement. After that happens, the CVC will have 60 days to decide its next move. It can agree to move forward with the plan backed by arbitrators or it can do nothing. If it picks the latter, the Rams could terminate the lease or continue at the Dome by re-upping on a year-to-year basis."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck thinks the Seahawks have the best secondary in the NFL. Henderson: "Hasselbeck said Kam Chancellor is better than Arizona's Adrian Wilson -- who's considered one of the top strong safeties in the league -- and predicted a breakout season for Earl Thomas, a Pro Bowl starter in 2011." Noted: Hasselbeck also sounds higher than most on veteran linebacker Barrett Ruud, who played with Hasselbeck's brother in Tennessee last season.
Also from Henderson: Defensive coordinator Gus Bradley warns against writing off injured cornerback Walter Thurmond.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle joins Mike Salk in looking at under-the-radar players who could shine for Seattle this season. Guard Deuce Lutui is one of them, Huard notes. Safety Jeron Johnson is another.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic looks at how the Cardinals' quarterback competition could help the team. Coach Ken Whisenhunt: "Over the past two weeks I've seen improvement from both guys. That goes to show you how valuable the offseason is. It's not just the OTAs (organized team activities), but the weeks before that, when they're working on their footwork, working on their drops, talking about their reads. In the NFL, it's all about being able to process [information], play fast, make accurate throws and manage the offense. Both of them have shown they can do it. What we're looking for is consistency. If we get that, we feel very good about this football team."
Monte Poole of Bay Area News Group says Michael Crabtree's improved health could be a big factor for the 49ers' receiver this season. Poole: "Crabtree pauses and gazes toward his feet. His left foot has undergone two surgeries and is pain-free. He says it hasn't felt this good since he was a college freshman in 2007, when he caught 134 passes for 1,962 yards and 22 touchdowns for the Red Raiders. It's numbers like that that had people anticipating someone who could pick up the torch transferred from Jerry Rice to Terrell Owens but abandoned since T.O. left after the 2003 season."
Instead, the team won nine of its first 10 games, finished 13-3 and came within an overtime defeat of reaching the Super Bowl.
Having a full offseason should help the 49ers prepare even better for 2012, but opponents should also have a better idea what to expect from coach Jim Harbaugh and staff.
We might have seen this taking place as the 2011 season progressed. The 49ers' division opponents fared considerably better in rematches against the 49ers than when facing them for the first time. But with all three rematches played away from Candlestick Park, venue also came into play as a key factor. The New York Giants were the only other team to face San Francisco twice last season, losing the first meeting before winning the second one. Both were close games at Candlestick.
This will be a storyline to monitor for the upcoming season.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com expects general improvement from the 49ers on offense, except at running back, where he expects a "slight dip, based on another year of wear and tear on Frank Gore, who turns 29 in May and has been the team's every-down back for six seasons."
Also from Maiocco: setting expectations for the 49ers on defense. Maiocco on the cornerback situation: "Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown are back as the starters, with Chris Culliver and Tramaine Brock as the backups. It's difficult to believe that Rogers, as an eighth-year player, can be much better than he was a year ago. But Brown, Culliver and Brock should improve with a full offseason of work."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle notes that the 49ers have 20 starters under contract beyond the 2012 season. Branch: "NaVorro Bowman will be a free agent after the 2013 season. I’m guessing the 49ers, as they did with Patrick Willis and Vernon Davis, will attempt to work out a long-term deal with Bowman before he hits free agency. Bowman will earn base salaries of $540,000 and $570,000 in 2012 and 2013, respectively."
Nick Eaton of seattlepi.com says Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has a role in an upcoming movie featuring Lee Majors, Gary Busey, Margot Kidder and Edward Furlong. Eaton: "Lynch will be playing 'mob security guard' -- officially credited as a 'goon' -- in a film called 'Matt’s Chance' from local production house Mirror Images. Lynch will be in Seattle this week for a three-day shoot at the iMusic club in Lower Queen Anne, said Nate Riley, producer and marketing director for Mirror Images."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune had this to say during a recent chat: "I believe Pete Carroll when he says there will be open competition, but I think it will be structured in such a way that Matt Flynn has the upper hand, both in practice and in games. They will do their best to make sure that Flynn looks good. You can't pay him $8 million in guaranteed salary this season and let him hold a clipboard. That makes no sense. They have two years to figure out if he's the franchise quarterback of the future, and the only way that happens is to see how he plays on the field."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals have met expectations for a mostly quiet offseason. Coach Ken Whisenhunt, speaking right after the season: "You don't anticipate a lot of changes. We have a lot of young players and you're going to be together."
Brian McIntyre of Mac's Football Blog spells out details of Daryn Colledge's contract restructuring. The team converted base salary to signing bonus, pushing some of the cap charge into future years.
Peter King of Sports Illustrated shares contents from a letter NFL commissioner Roger Goodell sent to St. Louis Rams defensive coordinator Gregg Williams regarding reinstatement from a bounty-related suspension that will last at least one season. King: "Sounds like if Williams makes some come-clean speeches to high school and college football teams around the country at the NFL's behest, he'll be back in the game in 2013 -- assuming the Rams will still employ him. That's likely, but not certain."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch asks whether Williams can effectively transition away from what has been his identity in the NFL. Miklasz: "Williams has built his career on cultivating an aggressive, attacking and violent mindset within his defense. ... Having been domesticated and deprogrammed, will Williams be able to motivate players the same as he did before? Can a formerly hard-edged coach still get the same results if he dramatically softens those edges? Legit questions." Noted: Williams has never done contrition well. This transition would seem to be problematic.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch provides the latest on Rams owner Stan Kroenke's attempt to purchase the Los Angeles Dodgers. Thomas: "Owning the Los Angeles Dodgers and the St. Louis Rams would violate cross-ownership rules. But if Kroenke should move the Rams to LA, he would be in compliance with cross-ownership rules because the Dodgers and the Rams would be in the same market. And this, obviously makes Rams fans even more antsy about the future of the team in St. Louis given the current stadium lease situation at the Edward Jones Dome."
That is no longer the case.
Tennessee and Denver are the favorites.
"Everyone else a longshot," ESPN's Adam Schefter said.
Manning appears to be taking a deliberate approach even as the Cardinals face a Friday deadline to decide whether Kevin Kolb receives a $7 million bonus. Will the deadline affect Manning's timetable in any way?
"He'll be courteous in communication," ESPN's Chris Mortensen said, "but no."
Oh, and one more thing: Manning plans to work out for the Broncos, Mortensen reports.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says it's still tough to say how the Manning situation will play out. Somers: "Though keeping Kolb would be a gamble, so would signing Manning, even though he is a four-time MVP and has been selected to 11 Pro Bowls. Manning missed last season because of a neck condition that reportedly required four procedures to fix. The strength in his right arm was affected, and it's unknown when, or if, it will return. ... No one outside Manning's family seems to know for sure what he's thinking. The Dolphins were pegged as a favorite at first, then supposedly eliminated. The Broncos were given a courtesy interview, then became the leader. The Cardinals were in the mix until the Broncos and Titans emerged as favorites. Or was it the Broncos and Dolphins? All the above scenarios have been reported."
Also from Somers: The Cardinals are bringing back Levi Brown.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says new Rams cornerback Cortland Finnegan attributes his personality to his mother, who spent two decades in the Army. Finnegan: "It may be my Irish side. I don't know. My mom's a little feisty. If you ever get the chance to meet her, she's got about 400 tattoos and she's just a wild woman. She's military background, so I think just her wild side is sort of part of what it's all about for me."
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why he thinks Rams owner Stan Kroenke wanted to purchase the Dodgers. Miklasz: "Kroenke's goal has been to buy the team and use the Dodgers as a hub for his own regional sports network in Southern California. Such a network would likely mean enormous profits for Kroenke, or the person that controls the Dodgers. Did you think Stan has offered more than $1 billion for the Dodgers because Matt Kemp is his favorite player or that he wants to hang out with Clayton Kershaw? Please. No, this was another money-making venture. Nothing wrong with that; but let's just be honest about the nature of Kroenke's interest. It isn't because he wanted to buy some peanuts and Cracker Jack."
Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Edward Jones Dome is keeping its name.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com breaks down Carlos Rogers' new deal with the 49ers. Maiocco: "Rogers counts $5.5 million against the 49ers' 2012 cap after signing a four-year, $29.3 million contract that includes a $5 million signing bonus. Rogers' deal includes a 2012 base salary of $3.9 million, along with annual $100,000 workout bonuses and up to $250,000 yearly in roster bonuses. Rogers' base salaries increase to $5.5 million in 2013, $6.25 million in 2014, and $7.25 million in 2015. The deal contains another $2 million total in possible incentives."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along thoughts from (former?) 49ers return specialist Ted Ginn Jr., who suggests the 49ers would have gone to the Super Bowl had he been healthy. Ginn is now seeking an expanded role as a wide receiver. Barrows: "The irony is that he had opportunities to be a receiver last season with the 49ers. Injuries to Michael Crabtree (early), Josh Morgan (middle) and Braylon Edward's release (late) meant that Ginn was the de facto No. 2 receiver for much of the season. He played 351 offensive snaps in 2011, 34.2 percent of the total snaps." Noted: I could see another team luring away Ginn by telling him what he wants to hear, but I'm skeptical over whether Ginn would in fact play significantly more on offense.
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat advises Alex Smith to re-sign with the 49ers.
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says adding Rock Cartwright could help the 49ers' special teams after Blake Costanzo signed with Chicago.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks have kept a low profile in free agency largely because they like their roster. O'Neil: "Even the interest Seattle has shown in Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, who visited this week, has been more tepid than some expected. The Seahawks' attention this year, not to mention many millions of dollars, has been spent re-signing players. No one thinks Seattle has arrived. There is a need at quarterback and a desire to improve the pass rush. But the Seahawks aren't just trying to amass talent, they're also trying to preserve it."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune cites a tweet from Michael Robinson as evidence the fullback will re-sign with the Seahawks.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team has gone through 12 potential replacements at left guard since losing Steve Hutchinson in free agency following the 2005 season.
The 49ers have sought to build their team through the draft, patching their roster with relatively affordable free agents. If they were to splurge for Wallace, sacrificing the draft capital that goes along with landing restricted free agents, the move would run 180 degrees counter to form.
Not that Wallace would necessarily be a waste.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee makes a strong case for Wallace in San Francisco. Barrows: "There's no guarantee a top receiver would still be available when the 49ers pick in the first round. And it's hard to imagine any wideout they did select there would be more effective than Wallace, at least initially. The good news for the pro-Wallace crowd is that the 49ers are likely to be interested when free agency starts, just as they threw their name into the ring with Nnamdi Asomugha last year. But as was the case with Asomugha and other high-end cornerbacks in 2011, the 49ers are likely to drop out once the price gets too steep. While giving up the 30th overall pick for a young but proven commodity like Wallace is justifiable, giving up that pick and signing Wallace to a pricey, long-term deal goes against the 49ers' philosophy."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle checks in with 49ers tight end Nate Byham, who says his surgically repaired knee is full strength. Byham: "Watching all season all I could do was lick my chops and think, 'I’m excited to a part of this.' Especially how they use tight ends and fullbacks. I really see myself fitting in at that H-back spot and that tight end spot. They work it like a jigsaw puzzle. They like to move guys around."
Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers details on the stadium renovation plan Rams officials rejected Thursday. Hathaway: "Taken as a whole, the CVC plan lacked the grand scale of several recent NFL stadium rehabs, like the $375 million overhaul of Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium or the $250 million renovation of Sun Life Stadium in Miami. The CVC plan also called for the Rams to pay for 52 percent of the $124 million project. That's a bigger share than what was paid by NFL teams in recent, more expensive rehab projects in Kansas City, Chicago or New Orleans."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says Cardinals tackle Brandon Keith, like Levi Brown, has arrived at a crossroads of sorts. Somers: "Keith showed flashes of the ability that made coaches think he could be an everyday starter. He's athletic for a man of 335 pounds and he can be a physical run blocker. Like Brown, that's his strength. His weakness, like Brown's, has been pass protection. Fast rushers tend to beat him off the ball. The problematic knee has played a role in that, no question. No matter the reason, Keith hasn't shown yet that he can hold up as a starter over time. Like Brown, the Cardinals want Keith back but at the right price. My sense is they place a higher value on Brown returning because he's durable, smart and has the ability to also play the right side."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the combine allowed Seattle's personnel people and coaches to get a better read on underclassmen in the draft. Farnsworth: "That junior class, those players who have been granted special eligibility for the draft, numbers 65 this year -- including Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon, LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, USC tackle Matt Kalil, Boston College middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, Memphis defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Alabama running back Trent Richardson. All are expected to be first-round picks on April 26."
Dave Grosby and Bob Stelton of 710ESPN Seattle do not expect the Seahawks to trade up for a quarterback in the draft.
Mike Salk of 710ESPN Seattle says the Seahawks' general manager, John Schneider, does not sound averse to adding a quarterback such as Peyton Manning, if available.
Accepting the proposal would have locked the Rams into their lease.
The team has until May 1 to make its own proposal, and if there is no deal by June 15, arbitration becomes an option, according to Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
What the Rams will want, of course, is a new stadium, not a renovated one.
The San Francisco 49ers recently secured one. The Rams' other division rivals, Seattle and Arizona, have moved into new stadiums over the past decade or so. The Minnesota Vikings are trying to get one.
For now, the Rams are walking through a series of predictable steps outlined in their lease agreement. That agreement requires the Edward Jones Dome to qualify as a top-tier facility by NFL standards, or else the Rams can break their lease after the 2014 season.
None of the new stadiums being built or proposed for construction follows the Edward Jones Dome's design, which was an extension of the way domes were constructed years ago. The Rams will want to play in a stadium resembling the ones being built around the league, and they would be foolish to settle for less when they have options.
Can the Rams get a new stadium in St. Louis? No one knows. But when pro teams cannot get new stadiums built locally, they look elsewhere. Why would the Rams be any different?
They obviously were not happy with the Convention and Visitors Commission publicly challenging the Rams' plans to play three home games in London over the next three seasons.
"We think that playing in London is great for the Rams and great for St. Louis," the team said. "We are in talks with the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which is also the region's chief marketing group, about how to make the most of this opportunity. As the CVC said today, this will 'elevate an awareness of St. Louis on the global stage.' We look forward to having amicable and meaningful dialogue with the CVC on many issues and believe those conversations should remain between the parties."
Please shut up, in other words.
There was nothing particularly amicable about the CVC's statement or the Rams' response, or about Rams owner Stan Kroenke previously going out of his way to take a noncommittal stance amid questions about the team's future in St. Louis. The Rams hold the upper hand in the long term because they control the team ultimately. In the meantime, both parties have grasped for leverage when it was available.
The move also appeared consistent with efforts to leverage stadium improvements from the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, which oversees the Edward Jones Dome.
The commission's efforts to stop the Rams from playing one game in London annually for the next three years raise two questions. Would playing in London violate the Rams' lease? And, what recourse would the CVC have to stop the Rams if the team decided to play in London anyway?
In the bigger picture, both sides are trying to leverage the situation.
The CVC knows the Rams will likely be able to terminate their lease following the 2014 season under a clause requiring the Edward Jones Dome to rank among the best facilities in the league. The Rams know playing games in London puts pressure on the CVC to meet the team's demands, whether or not such leverage is a primary reason for playing games there. The CVC has until Wednesday to outline plans for upgrading the Edward Jones Dome.
Playing in London offers financial advantages for the team.
"NFL teams that have played in London have been guaranteed ticket revenue equivalent to a sellout, plus expenses," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch notes.
These are the sorts of squabbles that turn off fans. They also come with the territory when large sums of cash are at stake. I have a hard time believing the NFL would schedule the Rams for London without knowing lease provisions would allow the team to fulfill its commitment.
There was only proof that some Giants players hoped to capitalize on Williams' history of concussions. Those hopes, expressed by Devin Thomas and Jacquian Williams, will not result in league discipline.
"Players are held accountable for their actions on the field," league spokesman Greg Aiello said. "There were no illegal hits to the head or neck area against Kyle Williams on Sunday. There was no conduct by the Giants of any kind that would suggest an effort to injure Kyle Williams in any way."
As for the fans threatening Williams following his pivotal fumble? Williams told ESPN Radio those threats were "shocking" even though he expected harsh criticism.
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the matter appears closed, with Aiello saying the league had no additional comment. Maiocco: "Coincidentally, 49ers co-owner John York is the chair of the NFL's newly formed Health and Safety Advisory Committee. New York Giants owner John Mara serves on the committee."
Also from Maiocco: thoughts on each of the 49ers' scheduled free agents. On Dashon Goldson: "The 49ers offered him a five-year contract last year. After he turned it down and the 49ers took the offer off the table, he returned to the 49ers on a one-year, $2 million contract. The 49ers might extend another five-year, $25 million contract. If that's not enough, they can keep him around with the franchise tag at one year, $6.2 million."
Taylor Price of 49ers.com checks in from the Pro Bowl.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers 49ers notes, including one about Brad Seely's candidacy as Colts head coach.
Keith Goldner of Advanced NFL Stats says it's clear the 49ers should have accepted a penalty for running into the kicker, then gone for it on fourth-and-1. Instead, the 49ers declined the penalty, letting the Giants take over possession at their own 7.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times puts into perspective the Seahawks' Pro Bowl haul. O'Neil: "In the previous two years, the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL that did not have a player either named to the Pro Bowl or chosen as an injury replacement. Seattle's five Pro Bowlers matches the franchise's fourth-largest contingent. Three of Seattle's four starters in the secondary will be appearing in the Pro Bowl, evidence of one of the biggest improvements in Seattle last season."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle passes along thoughts from Brandon Browner, who spent four seasons in the CFL before Seattle gave him a chance this season. Browner on his tryout: "It was most definitely just to make the team. I told Coach [Pete] Carroll at my workout that I would really appreciate a shot -- a legitimate shot -- at making this team. A lot of guys get shots, but there are a lot of guys brought in [to be] camp bodies. I told him, 'You brought me in. I can do some things with this team.'"
Also from Henderson: Brock Huard and Kevin Calabro discuss whether the Seahawks should have interest in Peyton Manning.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic questions whether former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would join the Cardinals as quarterbacks coach. Somers: "I'm hearing, however, that Arians isn't particularly anxious to become a position coach again. He's been a successful offensive coordinator, so you can't blame him for not wanting to take a step down. Arians was the Steelers receivers coach when Ken Whisenhunt was the offensive coordinator there. Arians replaced Whisenhunt and worked closely with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. If the Cardinals were to hire Arians, he could work with quarterbacks or receivers. If he took the receivers job, current receivers coach John McNulty could become quarterbacks coach. He worked with quarterbacks while at Rutgers."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com confirms that Beanie Wells underwent knee surgery, performed by Dr. James Andrews.
Also from Urban: Patrick Peterson will play in the Pro Bowl as a return specialist. He'd like to go as a cornerback in the future.
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects Steven Jackson to fit well in Brian Schottenheimer's offense. Jackson: "I have played against his teams a lot and they all come with that attitude and a certain level of play. They have that 'it.' It's hard to explain what that 'it' is to a ... fan. But it's just something about [the way they play] when they go between those lines. Coach Fisher's teams have a certain something that's hard to put a finger on. But I have to assume it's [his] leadership."
Matthew Hathaway of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes a sports economist as saying the Edward Jones Dome likely would need $200 million to $300 million in upgrades to prevent the Rams from breaking their lease after the 2014 season. Hathaway: "The Dome was largely financed with $256 million in revenue bonds, and the repayment of that 30-year debt will be $720 million. Every year, Missouri spends $12 million to pay off the debt, and St. Louis and St. Louis County each pay $6 million annually. The county's portion is funded through a 3.5 percent hotel tax approved by voters in 1990. The lease calls for the Rams to stay at the Dome through 2025 -- but only if the stadium is first tier at two points: 2005 and 2015. The Rams waived the requirement the first time in exchange for $30 million in improvements. This time, there are a series of deadlines in 2012, starting with the CVC's mandate to deliver a plan by Feb. 1."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' new defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is not lacking for confidence. Williams: "What you'll see is that everywhere I've gone, I've been able to get a top five defense during the time I'm there. Anywhere from one to four, one to five, in all of the stops I've made. ... I get way too much credit for the X's and O's, but my specialty is handling people, especially difficult people."
Also from Thomas: Schottenheimer has streamlined his terminology.
More from Thomas: Rams owner Stan Kroenke has explored the possibility of bidding on the Los Angeles Dodgers. There are those words again: Los Angeles. Thomas: "NFL cross-ownership rules prevent an NFL owner from owning a majority interest in another pro franchise outside of his market, if that non-football franchise is in a city with an NFL team. L.A. does not have a pro football franchise and hasn't had one since 1994. It's also OK for Kroenke -- or any NFL owner -- to own two pro sports franchises in the same city. But the cross-ownership rules have been bent and modified over the years, to the point where some might say they're not really hard-and-fast rules."
They are also the division's most-affected team off the field. That is because the NFL will not help finance a new 49ers stadium without a collective bargaining agreement in place.
The issue remains an impediment to the Minnesota Vikings as well. Commissioner Roger Goodell indicated Tuesday that the league would help the Vikings with their new stadium, leading one of my Facebook friends, Steve, to wonder what that meant for the 49ers. Have the Vikings been promised something extra? Not according to the league.
"It is the same assurance that any team has, which is that the clubs will consider requests by a team for a club-seat waiver in which a portion of club-seat revenue that goes to the visiting team sharing pool instead is used toward stadium construction financing for a period of time," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "Each request is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and must be approved by a three-fourths vote of the clubs."
The Vikings, like the 49ers, aren't getting help from the league without a CBA. With the legislative session in Minnesota ending within days, Goodell's comments appeared aimed toward giving the Vikings a short-term political push as they seek public support. Goodell said he would reveal more specifics in the coming days, but without a CBA, it'll be tough to advance the discussion.
The chart breaks down financing for NFC West venues, including the 49ers' proposed stadium. Non-ownership funding includes public financing, plus money raised by stadium authorities through naming rights and other measures. For the 49ers, that breaks down as $117 million in public money and $330 million from the Santa Clara Stadium Authority.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
» Complete stadium ratings: Team-by-team glance
Arizona Cardinals (University of Phoenix Stadium, capacity 63,400)
|AP Photo/Paul Connors|
|University of Phoenix Stadium can boast having the country's first retractable grass field.|
The Cardinals got it right when they finally put the scorching hot metal bleachers of Sun Devil Stadium behind them. They found a way to build a domed stadium -- essential given the desert heat -- without giving up natural grass or natural light.
America's first retractable grass field sets apart University of Phoenix Stadium. While the roof also opens, natural light shines through even when it's closed. The stadium arguably looks a bit like a giant spaceship from the outside, but Business Week magazine ranked it one of the world's 10 most impressive sports facilities.
Wow factor: 4 wows (out of 5)
St. Louis Rams (Edward Jones Dome, capacity 66,965)
The $30 million in offseason upgrades to the nearly 15-year-old facility do not change the bottom line. The place lacks distinct flavor. It's a big building with seats. Nothing about it screams St. Louis.
The Rams' lease agreement compels the stadium to remain a "top-tier" facility by 2015, meaning it must rank among the eight best in the league. Not going to happen. Two-thirds of the league has built new stadiums since the Rams' facility opened in 1995. Sorry, Ed, but this dome simply cannot measure up by NFL standards.
Wow factor: 0 wows
San Francisco 49ers (Candlestick Park, capacity 70,207)
The place is a dump by rising NFL standards, right down to the faded puke-orange seats. But the 'Stick has history on its side and there's a charm to the place, even while navigating the cramped concourses and craning to see the field from Section 19.
It helps knowing Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice called Candlestick home, but there's a reason the 49ers are pushing hard to build a new stadium in Santa Clara. It's time to move on.
Wow factor: 2 wows
Seattle Seahawks (Qwest Field, capacity 67,000)
This architecturally spectacular stadium fits nicely into downtown Seattle while providing skyline views, massive concourses and no real shortcomings.
Designers achieved an outdoor feel while still protecting 70 percent of seats from rain. The NFL's first field-level luxury suites give the end zones a distinct feel and there isn't a louder stadium in the NFL (most false starts since 2005).
Wow factor: 4 wows
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
TAMPA, Fla. -- The field at University of Phoenix Stadium finished first among grass fields in the NFL Players Association's annual survey.
The 49ers' field ranked 12th out of 18 grass fields. The top five: Arizona, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Carolina and Jacksonville. The five worst: Pittsburgh, Oakland, Miami, Chicago and Green Bay.
The FieldTurf surface at Qwest Field in Seattle ranked second among artificial infilled surfaces, behind the new field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The Rams' FieldTurf surface ranked eighth out of 13 artificial infilled surfaces. The five best: Indianapolis, Seattle, Baltimore, Atlanta and Detroit. The five worst: Dallas, Minnesota, Giants/Jets, St. Louis and Buffalo.
Players voted for the best and worst surfaces separately. That explains how the Rams' surface ranked eighth-best and fourth-worst out of 13 surfaces.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch looks at the Rams' youth movement at receiver. Donnie Avery, Keenan Burton and Derek Stanley will join Torry Holt among the top four wideouts against Dallas.
Also from Thomas: Orlando Pace probably will not play against the Cowboys, a surprise to me and a problem for the Rams as they try to block Demarcus Ware.
More from Thomas: a look at which team has the edge in various matchups between the Rams and Cowboys.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat expects Cowboys fans to make themselves heard in the Edward Jones Dome.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the next two games could determine Mike Nolan's fate as 49ers coach.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee checks in with 49ers linebacker Takeo Spikes, who says the team lacks the needed attention to detail.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers are 1-9 under Nolan in games played in the Eastern time zone.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says fans spend less money on sports during tough economic times, even if attendance remains strong.
Also from FitzGerald: Neither the 49ers nor Raiders have sold naming rights for their stadiums.
John Crumpacker of the San Francisco Chronicle tries to make sense of the Giants' upset loss to the Browns in Week 6. What does it mean for the 49ers?
Also from Crumpacker: a matchup box saying now would be a good time for Nolan to enjoy a "statement" game.
Michael Steffes of Seahawks Addicts revisits (and debunks) the idea that Seattle's defense is somehow undersized by NFL standards. I have touched on this at length, and Steffes is right. The Seahawks are slightly heavier, on average, than other 4-3 defenses.
Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune doesn't expect the Seahawks' tough season to affect Mike Holmgren's plans for 2009.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune says circumstances prevent the Seahawks from dismissing the "doom-and-gloomers" predicting more struggles.
Eric Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune revisits Jon Gruden's early days under Holmgren.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times says the Seahawks face long odds against the Bucs even though they've won all four road games against Tampa Bay.
Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune takes a look at Kurt Warner's mindset as the Cardinals quarterback spends the bye week with family.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Steelers fans emerged as best in the league during the fan rankings we ran in late August. The stadium-experience survey Peter King unveiled Wednesday ranked Qwest Field seventh, University of Phoenix Stadium 21st, Candlestick Park 26th and the Edward Jones Dome 32nd.
The situation in Arizona has the most potential for improvement if the team continues to win at home. The stadium is terrific. There's plenty of room for tailgating in parking lots and grass fields adjacent to the stadium. I checked it out Sunday.
Candlestick Park is as outdated as any stadium in the league. Assistant coaches have to walk through the stands on their way from the pressbox to the locker rooms. Some seats go unused because they lack views to the field (reflecting the stadium's use for baseball).
The Edward Jones Dome can be plenty loud. I have a feeling the No. 32 ranking there strongly reflected fans' overall feelings about the organization, too.
What's the best stadium experience you have enjoyed as a fan? Would you feel comfortable taking small children? I recall sitting at the Los Angeles Coliseum for a Chiefs-Raiders game as marijuana smoke wafted by.