NFC West: Fabrizio Scaccia

Howard Balzer of 101ESPN St. Louis is not so quick to dismiss the idea that the Rams could move to Los Angeles, even though owner Stan Kroenke appears unlikely to sell the team. Balzer: "After all, Kroenke does have that home in Malibu and he has been a member of the NFL's Los Angeles stadium committee. Plus, we all know about that funky stadium lease that was orchestrated by former club president John Shaw just as the papers were being signed to bring the Rams to St. Louis in 1995. While it has often been said the Rams are guaranteed to be here for at least four seasons, the reality is that if the team and CVC can't agree on a plan for the stadium issue by the end of 2012 and Kroenke wanted to leave, buying out the final two years of the lease would be a slam dunk." Having Los Angeles as an option should help Kroenke secure a more favorable stadium situation in St. Louis. Balzer is right in saying Rams fans should take nothing for granted.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams training camp could return to the team's facility near St. Louis. Coats: "Rams Park always was an option, but the club had considered Missouri Science & Technology in Rolla and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Time is growing short for the club to make a commitment to one of those schools, and without a labor agreement in place, the league schedule is up in the air. Training camp normally gets under way in late July. The Rams would be permitted this year to open camp a week early because they are scheduled to play the Chicago Bears in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 7 in Canton, Ohio."

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com profiles Rams rookie receiver Greg Salas. Wagoner: "Spent the majority of his time at Hawaii working out of the slot where he rarely faced press coverage. Has the hands and physical skills to be an impact pass catcher but will need to become a sharp route runner capable of beating press coverage to become a high level wideout in the NFL."

Tony Softli of 101ESPN St. Louis foresees no sophomore slump for the Rams' Sam Bradford.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers a few Cardinals-related notes, linking to a story about former tight end Leonard Pope saving a child from drowning. The boy's mother was watching her child, who suddenly went under. Said the mother: "I started screaming. Leonard was inside, and he came out of nowhere and dove into the water without any hesitation, cell phone in his pocket and all. He saved my son’s life, and I am so thankful that he was there for me and my child."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic thinks the Cardinals' team-oriented defense will still require strong play from its stars.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com offers thoughts on the 49ers' recent practices. Maiocco: "Remember the talk a week after the draft that rookie quarterback Colin Kaepernick was going to learn the 49ers' playbook from Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck? 'Yeah, that was blown way out of proportion,' Kaepernick said. The 49ers' playbook is different from the Stanford playbook. Kaepernick said there was never any talk of getting Luck to teach him the playbook. Luck doesn't even know the 49ers' playbook. If Kaepernick has any questions, he's asking Alex Smith."

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says conditioning should not be a problem for 49ers first-round choice Aldon Smith. Barrows: "On Thursday, Justin Smith had the group running two-by-two races up the east arch of Spartan Stadium, a grueling routine that lasted 40 minutes. Today, they were back on the east side of the stadium, this time sprinting up the bleachers from the bottom row to the top. Outside linebacker Parys Haralson was leading those drills. For Aldon Smith, it was no sweat. (Actually, his t-shirt was drenched like everyone else's). Smith was consistently among the first few players to the top on each run. The Smith boys -- Aldon, Alex and Justin -- seemed to excel at this drill."

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says former 49ers quarterback Joe Montana had to cancel a scheduled appearance before the Santa Clara City Council after requiring stitches following an ATV accident. Brown: "Montana was scheduled to discuss his plans for building a hotel, restaurants and sports bars near the proposed new 49ers stadium."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says 49ers kicker Fabrizio Scaccia has hit another long field goal try, this one from 57 yards, while playing in the Arena League.

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com revisits Steve Largent's contributions to the team. Farnsworth: "While doing some research for something that is only partially Largent related, this new are-you-kidding-me nugget was uncovered: In 1979, when Largent scored nine touchdowns, he averaged 36.3 yards on those scoring plays; and in 1978, when he had eight TDs, the average per scoring play was 36.1. Largent also soared around the 30-yard average in 1980 (30.2 on six scoring catches); 1977 (28.3 on 10 scoring catches); and 1981 (27.1 on nine scoring catches)."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider sizes up the 49ers' inside linebackers. Lynch: "The best thing the 49ers do as a team is play inside linebacker. The reputed Patrick Willis remains the team's best player and largely because of his talents, the 49ers are excellent against the run. Last season may have been Willis's most challenging. Teams figured they had to run away from Willis or be devoured. Opposing offenses decide to run offensive linemen at Willis instead of running backs and his tackle total for the season dropped. Nevertheless, the 49ers dropped just two places from fourth to sixth according to profootballoutsiders.com in their effectiveness against the run. Even though Willis wasn't always making the tackle, they were still able to cage running backs. Why? Two words: Takeo Spikes." The 49ers' signing of Spikes before the 2008 season stands as one of the better low-profile moves an NFC West team has made in recent seasons. He projected as a one- or two-year stopgap initially, but Spikes has started 44 of 48 games. He's been credited with six interceptions and 16 passes defensed. At age 34, he does not appear finished.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains how 49ers kicker Fabrizio Scaccia can play in the Arena League during the lockout. The Cardinals' Cliff Louis is doing the same thing. Maiocco: "The players are required to report to their NFL teams when the lockout ends. The AFL is in Week 6 of their 18-game regular season. The Arena Bowl, the league championship, is scheduled for Aug. 12. Scaccia also played last fall with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the United Football League."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers' Tom Gamble and Tom Rathman were there when Eastern Washington University's Taiwan Jones ran for scouts. Branch: "Jones, perhaps the draft’s most tantalizing running-back prospect, clocked 40-yard dash times that ranged anywhere from 4.28 to 4.35 seconds, according to the figures from the phalanx of scouts on hand. Perspective: On a different surface, Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott had the fastest 40 (4.34) among running backs at the NFL Combine and Miami cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had the fastest time overall (4.28). Jones also registered some other eye-opening measurables, including a 40-inch vertical jump and an 11-foot broad jump, five inches shy of the all-time combine record."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic gives the Cardinals a "C" grade for the first-round selections they've made since Ken Whisenhunt became head coach in 2007. The grade isn't any better for the second and third rounds. Somers on the first-rounders: "Levi Brown is the most controversial of the four, partly because the Cardinals passed on running back Adrian Peterson to take him. Whisenhunt defends Brown, who moved from right tackle to left in 2010, calling him an improving player. But Brown has been average, at best, and more is expected of a fifth pick. A bust? I don't say that. But more was/is expected. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie took a step back last year after making great progress his first two years. A Pro Bowler in 2009, he’s been worth the first-round pick. Wells has yet to live up to expectations, but I've seen the Cardinals give up too early on other backs. A little patience could pay dividends. Dan Williams showed improvement in the latter half of the 2010 season."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com profiles new defensive coordinator Ray Horton, who likes keeping people off-balance -- on the field and with the braided hair he wears. Urban: "In Horton’s world, he doesn’t want to be that predictable. He’ll drive to work various routes. If he’s playing golf, he may use a 6-iron on a particular shot and then, if a similar shot comes up again, try to 8-iron, just to see the difference. He’s also got the hair, which he started growing in Pittsburgh and -- when no one said anything -- just kept growing it, in part egged on by his players." Said Cardinals assistant DeShea Townsend: "Most coaches don’t have the good hair. That’s how I see it. This is his Samson moment."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' offensive linemen are working out together during the lockout. Thomas: "We train on Tuesdays and Thursdays together as a group. That way we get some camaraderie and cohesiveness that everybody who knows anything about football knows is important for our group. So we train together twice a week, and then most of us train there at other times during the day on a one-on-one basis [with a personal trainer]."

Also from Thomas: Draft prospects visiting the Rams hung out in the late Georgia Frontiere's posh suite at Rams Park, dining on steaks catered by Ruth's Chris. Julio Jones and Corey Liuget were among the 19 confirmed attendees.

Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the Rams were better than expected at defensive end last season, including backups. Wagoner: "C.J. Ah You’s performance came as a bit of a surprise on the heels of his return from a season-ending knee injury in 2009. But he answered the bell as a third-down pass rush specialist as he was fourth on the team with four sacks and 10 quarterback hits and pressures while also showing the versatility to move inside. As a seventh-round choice, George Selvie impressed coaches with a strong preseason before he was put on the sidelines early with a foot injury. Selvie pushed through and contributed 1.5 sacks and five quarterback hits while also proving solid against the run."

Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says former receiver Michael Bumpus is giving soccer a try. Writes Mark Gaschk of soundersfc.com: "He started playing club soccer at age 13 with Santa Monica United and played his high school soccer at Culver City High School, where he was one of the better defenders in the region and was heavily recruited. He even went to Europe with his club team, where the soccer bug had him fully enraptured. However, when it came time to decide on his future in his senior year of high school, the scholarships he was being offered to play football outweighed a scenario that would have him playing soccer and paying his own way through college."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times provides a chat transcript featuring former Seahawks coach Jim Mora. Mora says the Eagles would be a great fit for Jake Locker. Also from Mora: "I'd like to see them re-sign Matt (Hasselbeck) just because I have so much respect for him and he's such an institution here in Seattle. But I think it's irresponsible as an organization if you don't address the future at such an important position as quarterback. And I think they've tried to address the future with the signing of Whitehurst and they'll continue to do so." But he thinks selecting Locker wouldn't be a great idea for Seattle.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch does not envision the Rams drafting a linebacker 14th overall. Thomas: "Von Miller (Texas A&M) will be long gone. He's a top 10 pick, maybe a top 5 pick. UCLA's Akeem Ayers got some early play as a mid-first round guy, then he ran a 4.8 at the 40. Plus, some scouts -- including some at Rams Park -- think he may not be physical enough. I think he's now regarded as a late first, or early second guy. Justin Houston (Georgia) and Brooks Reed (Arizona) are listed by some as OLBs, but at 270 pounds and 263 pounds, respectively, they played end in college and would be 3-4 OLBs."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis wonders where Josh McDaniels will find the time to coordinate the Rams' offense and coach their quarterbacks.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to meet with Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett on April 11. Barrows: "Mallett has perhaps the best combination of arm strength, touch and accuracy among draft-eligible quarterbacks, and his 6-6 frame gives him a nice vantage point from the pocket. Mallett threw for 3,869 yards last season at Arkansas -- considerably more than any of the top quarterbacks in the draft -- and he also tossed 32 touchdowns against 12 interceptions. But Mallett also might be the least athletic of the top six quarterbacks."

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat profiles 49ers free-agent kicker Fabrizio Scaccia, one of the few NFL players never to play at the college level. Branch: "An all-state kicker and all-American soccer player at St. Lucie (Fla.) Centennial West High, the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Scaccia was offered a full-ride football scholarship from South Carolina. But he couldn't accept it, he said, after his mom was involved in a serious car accident and required his care (she has since fully recovered). He became a star kicker on southern Florida's semi-pro circuit -- he is a member of the Minor League Football Hall of Fame -- but he was destined for local-legend status until his 68-yarder kicked off a string of phone calls and opened doors."

Also from Branch: The 49ers have good depth at tight end, but they'll check out college prospects at the position anyway. Coach Jim Harbaugh envisions a power offense that leans on the tight end and fullback.

Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider takes a closer look at the 49ers' defensive line, plus potential options in the draft and free agency. Lynch: "Like so many areas on this team, the defensive line is good, not great. Justin Smith went to the Pro Bowl in each of the last two seasons and deservedly so. The guy never misses a game and at times he can dominate. Nevertheless, Smith typically collects his sacks against sad-sack opponents. Also, Smith could really be dangerous if he had another pass rusher who could draw some attention away from him. The 49ers figured Ahmad Brooks could be that guy, but by season's end even former defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was losing faith in his commitment."

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times doesn't envision the Seahawks using a first-round choice for Washington quarterback Jake Locker. O'Neil during a chat: "Sure, could be a consideration. I don't have any hard, declarative statements that Seattle isn't interested or has already ruled him out. But my sense has been that the Seahawks aren't sold on Locker enough to take him in the first round. Against that's my sense. And this is coming from a guy who had the 'sense' to wear shortsleeves with a tie last week on stage at a UFC weigh-in.

Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle offers thoughts via video on Locker's prospects. He's anxious to see which NFL personnel people attend Locker's pro day Wednesday.

Jeff Hartsell of the Charleston Post and Courier says Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts' relative success explains why more scouts are visiting The Citadel to check out prospects there. Hartsell: "Roberts was a third-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2010 NFL draft after his record-setting career at The Citadel. If cornerback Cortez Allen, who tested well at the NFL combine last month, is drafted this year, it would mark the first time since 1969-70 that The Citadel had players drafted in consecutive years."

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