NFC West: Jacob Green
This past weekend was a slow one around the NFL, but two stories resonated in the NFC West. Both involved top executives from teams in the division: Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York.
Steve Kelley of the Seattle Times spoke with Schneider and Schneider's wife, Traci, regarding the fund they're establishing to help other families raising autistic children. Their 10-year-old son, Ben, has benefited from extensive treatment. John Schneider: "We never knew if Ben would ever tell us that he loved us back. It's a strange feeling when you say, 'good night' to your son and he doesn't say 'good night' back. But we were blessed to be in a position where we could get the right help. Other families don't have access to the same resources." Noted: According to the Seahawks, a benefit event scheduled for Thursday includes a long list of celebrity waiters featuring Doug Baldwin, Brandon Browner, Tom Cable, Pete Carroll, Kam Chancellor, Chris Clemons, Jacob Green, Brock Huard, Tarvaris Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, Russell Okung, Sidney Rice, Brian Russell, Craig Terrell, Earl Thomas, Robbie Tobeck and Manu Tuiasosopo.
Brock Huard of 710ESPN Seattle explains why he thinks the Seahawks would consider Ryan Tannehill if the Texas A&M quarterback were available to them in the draft.
Mike Rosenberg of the San Jose Mercury News spoke with York recently for a question-and-answer session on the 49ers' next stadium. Diverse dining options and the latest technology will be stadium hallmarks, according to York. Also, fans will be able to visit the Great America amusement park before games. York on differences from Candlestick Park: "Is everything too broad of an answer? You're almost doubling the amount of space for the same amount of people. You don't want to blast Candlestick for being an older building, because there have been a lot of great moments there, but the new building is going to be a completely different experience. Instead of just making a nice hot dog, you can do 20 to 30 different items. It'll probably be a 50 percent quicker exit than what you see at Candlestick. You can't compete with that, being able to park easily and get to your car and out onto the freeway quicker or take public transit."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers plan to bid on a Super Bowl at their new stadium. Barrows: "Teams are required to play two full seasons in their new venues before hosting a Super Bowl. The 49ers are increasingly confident that the yet-to-be-named stadium in Santa Clara will be ready for the start of the 2014 season."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes that the Cardinals are opening their offseason conditioning program Monday amid new limits on what teams and coaches can ask of players. Somers: "Teams must film all three phases and keep a copy until 30 days after the start of the regular season. Acting on a complaint, NFL officials can request to look at that film. Coaches are subject to fines of up to $100,000 for the first violation and $250,000 for the second. Those cannot be reimbursed by the club. Teams are subject to fines of $250,000 for the first violation and $500,000 for the second. Half of the fine amounts goes to the Gene Upshaw Players Assistance Trust and half to the Player Care Foundation. If a team commits a violation, it will lose a week of OTAs. A second violation will cost the club a fourth-round pick in the next draft."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says defensive end Calais Campbell will not attend the voluntary program while remaining unsigned as the team's franchise player.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch offers this on the Rams' search for a backup quarterback: "The Rams remain interested in free-agent quarterback Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh), who worked out for the team last week, but probably won't make a decision until after the draft. Baltimore and Denver are also showing interest."
NFLDraftScout.com looks at five players the Rams could consider in the draft. On running back Doug Martin: "Steven Jackson will be 29 this summer, and at some point the Rams have to add in a significant way a player that can be his backup and potentially take over the position. Martin is gaining a lot of traction in the run-up to the draft, with some predicting he could be selected in the first round. If that doesn't happen, the Rams could be tempted to spend one of their second-round picks on a runner."
My picks for midseason most valuable player for each team in the division:
San Francisco 49ers: Frank Gore
The season started poorly for him and there were whispers about whether or not he had lost a step. Gore has put to rest those concerns emphatically. His five consecutive games with at least 100 yards rushing are a franchise record and the NFL's longest streak since Maurice Jones-Drew had six last season. The 49ers have cut back Gore's role as a receiver. They have also worked rookie Kendall Hunter into the rotation. Still, Gore is averaging a career-high 19.9 rushing attempts per game. Ankle injuries have threatened Gore more than opposing defenses have threatened him.
This was a tough call because free safety Earl Thomas carries quite a bit of value, too. Clemons stands as the best pass-rusher on a team that needs more of them. His toughness in playing well through injuries has commanded respect from teammates. Clemons remains on pace for his second consecutive season with double-digit sacks. Michael Sinclair was the last Seahawks player with at least 10 sacks in consecutive seasons. He accomplished the feat back in 1997-98. Jacob Green did it twice in the 1980s.
Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson
Peterson is the first player in NFL history with three punt returns for touchdowns in the first eight games of his career. His fourth-quarter return touchdown against Carolina and overtime return touchdown against St. Louis were directly responsible for the Cardinals' only victories of the season. On defense, Peterson is still getting acclimated to Arizona's scheme and those pesky NFL rules. Penalties have dogged him. He does have two interceptions, however, and continues to develop.
St. Louis Rams: Steven Jackson
The Rams have been competitive in their past two games. Jackson's return to health has been the leading reason why. With 289 yards spread across games against New Orleans and Arizona, Jackson has put himself back on pace for a seventh consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season. The Rams will be Sam Bradford's team at some point in the future, but Jackson's profile in the locker room is unrivaled at Rams Park. He's the emotional leader of the team and the one player everyone on the roster can rally around.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams have so far weathered the lockout well from a business standpoint, according to team executive Kevin Demoff. Miklasz: "The Rams have season-ticket renewal rate of 94 percent -- assuming that fans follow through on their deposits, which is a fairly safe bet. According to Demoff, this will be the Rams' highest season-ticket renewal rate in more than a decade. The Rams already have sold 4,000 new season tickets, which doubles what they sold in new season tickets a year ago. And the Rams figure to get another boost from the end of the lockout and the start of camp."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com sizes up the Cardinals' situation at quarterback heading toward free agency. Urban: "Speculation has made Kevin Kolb, the Eagles’ backup to Michael Vick and a free-agent-to-be after the 2011 season, the name to watch once teams can begin to make moves. The price the Eagles demand for Kolb figures to be a factor. His potential is just that -- potential -- and no sure thing. Does Kyle Orton make more sense? Or, given the fact both Orton and Kolb are scheduled to become free agents after 2011, maybe the Cards wait and pick up a free agent this year. After the position as a whole underperformed last season, any added veteran projects to an upgrade."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in from Jacob Green's annual charity golf tournament in the Seattle area, noting that the retired pass-rusher has raised millions to fight cancer. Farnsworth: "Green [led] the Seahawks in sacks nine times -- including 1983, when he had a career-best 16; and the four-season stretch from 1983-86 when he produced 54.5. He was inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor in 1995, selected to the Seattle Post Intelligencer’s 25th Anniversary team in 2000 and voted the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team last year."
Also from Farnsworth: The Seahawks' facility got high marks from Manchester United players visiting over the weekend.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee passes along a story from an HBO show reflecting early signs of the competitiveness that typifies 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Barrows: "Jim Harbaugh once beaned a little girl square in the back with a fastball. He was only nine years old at the time, but that didn't seem to make a difference to the horrified parents watching from the stands."
Also from Barrows: 49ers fullback Bruce Miller is hanging out with quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Barrows: "Kaepernick said he trained with Miller before the combine in February. Back then Miller thought he would play defensive end, his position at Central Florida, at the NFL level or perhaps try his hand at outside linebacker. The 49ers, however, view Miller to as a fullback, and Kaepernick has been impressed with what he's seen from him at that position so far."
Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle says 49ers snapper Brian Jennings has been teaching his craft to youngsters this offseason, including during a camp Saturday. Branch: "Jennings hosted a long-snapping camp at San Jose State on Saturday for 20 high-school-aged hopefuls and has plans to develop an online long-snapping school. The six-hour camp was filmed and Jennings will use the footage as content for his online school, which will feature drills and coaching tips. Jennings is passionate about providing an affordable way to teach others across the nation the finer points of his craft."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com asks whether the lockout will lead to more false-start penalties as the 49ers break in a new offensive scheme.
Also from Maiocco: He offers thoughts on the comments 49ers general manager Trent Baalke recently made to San Jose Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami. Maiocco: "Outside linebacker Manny Lawson and nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin will get some free-agent attention around the league. The 49ers drafted Lawson's replacement, Aldon Smith, with the No. 7 overall pick. And the 49ers have contingency plans to place a priority on re-signing defensive end Ray McDonald, starting him at left defensive end, and shifting Isaac Sopoaga to nose tackle to replace Franklin."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com thinks the team will select a defensive player with the fifth overall choice.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says Jeff Bryant's versatility might have hurt him in balloting for the Seahawks' 35th anniversary team. He was tough to classify. Farnsworth: "Bryant, in fact, is the only player in franchise history to start at all four spots on the D-line. He was the right end from his rookie season in 1982 until 1990, when the Seahawks drafted Cortez Kennedy and shifted to a 4-3 defense. But Bryant started 14 games that season at the right tackle spot Kennedy eventually would own. In 1991, Bryant replaced Joe Nash as the left tackle. In 1992, Bryant moved to left end to replace Jacob Green."
Also from Farnsworth: Nash shows humility in explaining the key to his 218-game career on the Seahawks' defensive line, noting that injuries to other players gave him chances for playing time. Nash wasn't even supposed to earn a roster spot, at least initially, after going to camp with the team in 1982 as an undrafted free agent from Boston College. Nash: "I was supposed to get cut, on the final cut. It was really weird because I was in this room with about 10 other guys who got cut [when the pro scouting director told him the team was trying to keep him]. I stayed in the room, which was kind of awkward because the guy I was rooming with turned back and said, 'What are you doing?' They ended up putting someone else on IR and I got to stay."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee gets thoughts from Charley Casserly on LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson relative to Champ Bailey as the 49ers consider their options in the secondary. Casserly: "[Bailey] had great hands and an ability to focus on the ball. There are times that I think Peterson should make more plays on the ball than he does. That's something that I'd spend some time looking into if I was thinking of drafting him. ... That's no slight on Peterson. Champ has been to 10 Pro Bowls." Casserly was with the Redskins when they selected Bailey.
Carl Steward of Bay Area News Group checks in with Bucs quarterback Josh Johnson for thoughts on 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh. Johnson played under Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Johnson: "Even if we don't get together, there's always going to be a mutual relationship between us. There's a lot of respect there, because I know what he did for me as a player. I know how much I grew to love him and his family. I felt like it was more than just a coach-player type of thing."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers visited with Baylor nose tackle Phil Taylor as the team considered its options at the position. Veteran Aubrayo Franklin is unsigned for 2011. Maiocco: "The 49ers are doing their homework on Taylor, who transferred from Penn State. Taylor left Penn State after he was suspended for his role in an on-campus fight in 2007. He finished strong at Baylor, and was one of the week's more impressive players at the Senior Bowl."
Also from Maiocco: He defends his decision to name Jason Smith the Rams' worst draft choice since 2006. Maiocco: "The problem with the Rams is that there were a lot of bad picks from which to choose. Hill and Adam Carriker were given strong consideration. But the reason I went with Smith is because of where he was chosen. He was the No. 2 overall pick. And he is playing right tackle. Nobody takes a right tackle with the No. 2 overall selection. The fact that a rookie selected at the top of the second round (Rodger Saffold) was inserted at left tackle over the No. 2 overall pick from the year before is astounding." Hill would be my choice given that he started only 21 games for the Rams. Carriker started 25 games for the Rams before emerging as a 16-game starter with Washington last season. Hill owns four starts over two seasons since leaving the Rams. Smith projects as a long-term starter. That's why drafting offensive linemen early tends to be a low-risk proposition. Even the disappointing ones tend to start for a long time while providing at least above-average play. That has been the case with Robert Gallery in Oakland.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch checks in with Rams season-ticket holders. Most of the ones surveyed are holding onto their money until the labor situation is clearer. Said one fan: "I was so geeked up for this season. We're kind of losing enthusiasm a little bit because you don't know what's going to transpire. I want them to get this (settled) soon because you don't want to lose the excitement -- you know what I mean? ... I'm going to hold my money during the unknown. Who knows? We might not have football this August. Or a shortened season. I don't want you just sitting on my money. I'll hold my own."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times continues his look at Golden Tate's rookie season. O'Neil: "It's not unprecedented for a receiver to take a huge jump in his second season. (Chad) Johnson and (Steve) Smith (of the Giants) are proof of that. In fact, of the 45 receivers chosen in the second round from 2000 to 2009, 11 of them increased their receptions by 20 or more catches in their second season. But that upward progression is hardly a sure thing. Just look at the above list for proof that for some second-round picks, a mediocre rookie season foreshadows an unremarkable sophomore season, too."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with former pass-rusher Jacob Green, who landed on the franchise's 35th anniversary team. Joe Nash: "The guy was just amazing. The one thing that stands out the most about Jake in my mind is how he took Henry Lawrence back in one of those playoffs games and just dominated him with his great athleticism."
Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout has the Rams selecting Alabama receiver Julio Jones in his latest mock draft. Rang: "The Rams have their young franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford and a workhorse runner in All-Pro Steven Jackson, but desperately need help outside. Jones isn't as fast on the field as he was at the Combine, but his size, strength and three years of consistent standout play in the ultra-competitive SEC make him an ideal candidate to make an immediate impact." Rang has Arizona taking Robert Quinn, San Francisco taking Patrick Peterson and Seattle taking Corey Liuget.
Eric Davis tells Niner Insider he'll be able to speak his mind as the 49ers' new color commentator for radio. Davis: "I said flat out, 'If I say something negative, will I go to the principal's office?' They said, 'We want you to say what you want.'" Davis says he hasn't spoken with Gary Plummer, his former teammate and the man he'll replace in the booth.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat looks at potential quarterback candidates for the 49ers. On Matt Hasselbeck: "No other QB on the market is more familiar with the intricacies of the West Coast offense than Hasselbeck, 35, a free agent who has played in a West Coast system since 2001." Hasselbeck's experience in a West Coast system goes back even farther, to his practice-squad days with Green Bay in 1998.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh was there when Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi worked out for NFL teams. Barrows: "He's got a quick release and makes good decisions having thrown 25 touchdowns against six interceptions last season. However, he does not have the athleticism -- something Harbaugh covets -- or the arm strength of other prospects. It should be noted that Harbaugh and Stanzi are represented by the same agent, Jack Bechta. (In fact, Harbaugh had two agents when he was hired by the 49ers in January, Bechta and David Dunn, who also represents Jake Locker)."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com ranks the 49ers' 18th in terms of draft classes over the past five years. Maiocco: "The 49ers accumulated more than half of their starters through the draft in the past five years, but that has not reflected improvement on the field. The main reason is because the 49ers did not acquire standouts at impact positions, such as quarterback, cornerback and pass-rusher."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the Cardinals cannot forget about their offensive line even though quarterback and pass-rusher are positions of more immediate need. Urban: "The Cards aren’t going to go offensive lineman with their first pick, but after that, I could see it at any point. Finding someone to begin grooming – a la Keith – now that Herman Johnson has left seems crucial. There seems to be some line depth in the draft, especially at tackle, again with the knowledge decent interior guys can often be found later or undrafted."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic had this to say during a Cardinals chat: "If all reports are true, Von Miller would be a wise choice in the first round. In second round, I'd look hard at the next tier of quarterbacks. I like Andy Dalton." Somers thinks Marc Bulger is the favorite to start at quarterback for Arizona in 2011, and that the team will not draft a quarterback in the first round.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says the team's quest to find a quarterback will impact Larry Fitzgerald's decision on whether to remain with the team past 2011. Urban: "Money will not be an issue. The Cardinals are expected to meet Fitzgerald’s desires in that area. As last season progressed, however, Fitzgerald talked more and more about wanting to make sure he played for a winner. He was always careful not to talk about having a better quarterback -- Fitzgerald is too smart for that -- but it was not difficult to read between the lines."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams went without a compensatory draft choice for only the second time in 10 years. Thomas: "Over the years, the Rams have had good success with compensatory picks, including two members of the current roster -- linebacker Josh Hull from the 2010 draft and linebacker David Vobora from the '08 draft. Vobora was Mr. Irrelevant in '08 as the last player taken in the draft. Three other former Rams compensatory picks are still playing in the NFL: quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (Buffalo) and fullback Madison Hedgecock (Giants) were Rams comp picks in 2005; and linebacker Scott Shanle (New Orleans) was a comp pick in 2003."
Also from Thomas: The Rams expected improvement from quarterback Sam Bradford to help raise the level of play at receiver as well. Better luck with injuries would certainly help. Coach Steve Spagnuolo: "Donnie Avery looks great. You know, when Donnie and I talked a year ago at the end of the (2009) season I said, 'You've got to be a durable guy, and that takes the offseason.' Because he would catch a pass and it seemed like every time he got up -- I told him this -- something was sore. So he worked on it last year, and of course he had the (knee) injury, and with this time with rehab that still rings in his ear. He has really taken a step to get his body ready to play an NFL season."
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com says the team is still formulating its draft opinions. General manager Billy Devaney: "We are not close to being there. I have a general idea. Being realistic, there are certain guys you know are going to be gone from pick one to five, six, seven. Then after that there is a cluster of names and they are darn good names. It’s exciting. It’s really exciting the possibilities that will be there at 14. We have a vague idea but we haven’t narrowed it down yet."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com explains why the 49ers received a second compensatory draft choice. Maiocco: "There were 21 compensatory picks awarded Friday based on the compensatory pick formula. By rule, 11 additional choices were awarded at the end of the seventh round to bring the total number of compensatory selections to 32, equaling the number of NFL clubs. The 49ers were among the teams given an extra draft choice based on the 2011 draft selection order."
Also from Maiocco: He makes the case against San Francisco using an early draft choice for a wide receiver. Maiocco: "Teams with good passing attacks can plug in receiver after receiver, and there is rarely a statistical drop-off. The 49ers have 10 picks in the draft, and they will almost assuredly use one of those selections on a wideout. But the team should be just fine with Michael Crabtree and Josh Morgan as the starters -- as long as Jim Harbaugh can come up with somebody to throw the ball to them. The 49ers will look to upgrade the production from their No. 3 wideout. Veteran Ted Ginn had only 10 catches for 122 yards, and his spot on the roster is certainly not guaranteed. Kyle Williams did not get on the field much as a rookie, but he's a Trent Baalke draft pick. Baalke raved about Williams' combination of quickness and speed, attributes that serve him well as a slot receiver and in the return game."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee updates pre-draft workouts and visits for the 49ers. Barrows on Andy Dalton: "Dalton said on NFL Network that he has private visits set up with the 49ers among other teams. Jim Harbaugh attended Dalton's pro day workout earlier this month, and he is among a group of second-round prospects the 49ers are sorting out. Dalton's best attribute may be his accuracy, although like many passers in this year's class, he operated out of a spread system in college."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the 49ers, who already hold a league-high 12 draft choices, should trade back to acquire more in the hopes that quantity gives them a better shot at quality. Lynch: "In the last decade, the 49ers proved adept at drafting a Pro Bowl punter, long-snapper, middle linebacker and running back. But now they have to take chances on pass rusher, cornerback and quarterback. It would be best to go after those spots with two or three possibilities instead one potentially expensive miss."
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says the 49ers have a shot at continuing their recent successes in the latter rounds of drafts. The team holds five choices in the final two rounds. Josh Morgan, Ricky Jean-Francois and Anthony Dixon were recent finds in those rounds.
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Seahawks kicker Olindo Mare would take a "hometown discount" to remain with the team. Mare: "Oh, absolutely. For sure. I would be stupid not to. The Seahawks gave me an opportunity. I always take that into consideration also. But we'll see. I have to get a offer first. What would be great would be is if there was a bunch and it would show that people appreciate what you do, and that's always flattering. Just to get all your options available. If you signed (for) three, four, five years, that would be your last contract. You want to make sure that everything was done right. But yeah, Seattle will definitely get a home discount. Besides, I like to go to the Sounders games, and I've got a lot going on there." Looks like the Seahawks don't have to worry about losing Mare in free agency.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com continues his series on the 35th anniversary team with a look at retired safety Eugene Robinson. Farnsworth: "For a guy who showed up in 1985 as an undrafted rookie out of Colgate, as a cornerback no less, Robinson left an indelible mark on the franchise. He is the Seahawks’ all-time leading tackler (984) and ranks second in career interceptions (42) to Dave Brown (50) and fumble recoveries (14) to Jacob Green (17) -- one of the ends on the reader-selected 35th Anniversary team."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says a small group of Seahawks fans protested the NFL lockout at Qwest Field. Said one fan: "It frustrates me because we paid for our tickets. We spend a lot of money during the season to watch these guys, and our say doesn't even get taken into any consideration."
Also from Barrows: a look at outside linebackers the 49ers could consider in the second round.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Ryan Mallett's lack of mobility could make him a bad fit for the 49ers.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com checks in with retired pass-rusher Jacob Green, whose BBQ offerings have helped raise more than $420,000 at auction for cancer research over the past five years. Farnsworth: "The former Pro Bowl defense end and member of the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor stole the show -- or auction -- at an event Saturday night to benefit the Puget Sound affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation. Two attendees bid $45,000 each to have Green work his grill magic, and spin a few tales of the Seahawks’ early days, for parties of 20."
Also from Farnsworth: Five members of the 35th anniversary Seahawks team were undrafted. Six spent their full careers with Seattle.
More from Farnsworth: Mack Strong edged John L. Williams for a spot on the anniversary team. Strong: "I had tremendous respect for John L. -- how he played the game and what he meant to this organization. When I came out to Seattle, I’d only heard of three people on that team -- Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and John L. Williams. So, just being able to play with him was a huge honor and I feel like I learned a lot about how to be a pro just from watching him. So to be in the category with him is a real high honor for me."
Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle says Randy Moss casually listed Seattle among the teams he would consider joining for the 2011 season. It wasn't clear if he mentioned Seattle for any reason, however.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com offers thoughts from Ollie Matson's niece regarding the letter Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill sent to Matson's family for use at the Hall of Famer's memorial ceremony. Said the niece: "It was amazing how blown away everyone was to receive this letter. It was so personal."
Channel 5 in Phoenix says the couple that won a free home as part of a University of Phoenix Stadium promotion is moving into their new digs. The promotion hinged on the Cardinals returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown during a home game. It happened in the home opener against Oakland last season when LaRod Stephens-Howling broke a 102-yarder.
Ray Brewer of the Las Vegas Sun says Rams running back Steven Jackson will be enshrined in the Southern Nevada Sports Hall of Fame for his efforts at Eldorado High School. The story includes a photo showing a much skinnier Jackson carrying the ball in a high school game. Brewer: "Jackson rushed for 6,396 yards and 81 touchdowns during his high school career at Eldorado, leading the Sundevils to the Sunrise Regional crown in 2000 and a state runner-up finish. He went on to spend three years at Oregon State, rushing for 3.625 yards and 39 touchdowns in 36 games, while adding six rushing touchdowns and seven on returns. His 4,545 all-purpose yards are second-best in Oregon State history. He capped his career with a five-touchdown performance in the Las Vegas Bowl, then announced he was turning professional in the media interview room at Sam Boyd Stadium."
The Columbus Republic says former Rams receiver Marques Hagans has taken a job as an assistant coach at the University of Virginia, where he played from 2002-2005.
The change turned Aaron Curry's sack on the San Francisco 49ers' Alex Smith into a half-sack for Curry and Clemons. I watched replays and also thought Clemons deserved at least some credit for the sack.
Clemons now has 10 sacks in 13 games with Seattle. He becomes the first Seahawks player since Patrick Kerney in 2007 to have at least 10 in a season. Kerney had 14.5.
Clemons becomes the eighth player from a current NFC West team to record at least 10 sacks in a season since 2000. The list:
- 2010: Clemons
- 2009: none
- 2008: none
- 2007: Kerney (14.5)
- 2006: Leonard Little, Rams (13.0) and Julian Peterson, Seahawks (10.0)
- 2005: none
- 2004: Bertrand Berry, Cardinals (14.5)
- 2003: Little (12.5)
- 2002: Andre Carter, 49ers (12.5) and Little (12.0)
- 2001: Little (14.5)
- 2000: Grant Wistrom, Rams (11.0) and Kevin Carter, Rams (10.5)
The Rams' James Hall ranks second to Clemons in sacks among NFC West players this season. He has 8.5. Teammate Chris Long is next with 6.5, followed by the 49ers' Justin Smith (5.5) and four players with five sacks (Travis LaBoy, Patrick Willis, Raheem Brock and Joey Porter).
Clemons joins a Seattle double-digit sacks list featuring Jacob Green (five times), Michael Sinclair (three), Rufus Porter (two), Jeff Bryant (two), Cortez Kennedy (one), Michael McCrary (one), John Randle (one), Randy Edwards (one), Kerney (one) and Peterson (one).
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch thinks the Rams should make a play for San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson. I wouldn't give up high draft choices for him.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Steven Jackson is looking forward to a heavier workload in the running game. Jackson: "In this league a four-yard gain is a very positive play. People would like for every run to be a big gain or a touchdown for 67 yards, but realistically, that just doesn't happen in this league. You have to be patient. You have to continue to wear a team down, and you have to see what they're trying to take away and what they're going to give."
Also from Thomas: The Rams brought back tight end Darcy Johnson.
Steve Korte of the Belleville News-Democrat says the Rams were pleased with rookie left tackle Rodger Saffold in the opener. They should have been. Neither offensive tackle was a storyline after the game, a departure from early in the preseason.
Nick Wagoner of stlouisrams.com offers injury notes from Rams practice.
Also from Wagoner: Chris Long's dad played for Oakland, but the younger Long will keep his focus on football when visiting the Raiders in Week 2. Chris Long: "I didn't grow up there really. But again, I'm very appreciative of their fan base. Any time I've been around people who are Raiders fans, they've always been great to my family."
More from Wagoner: Danny Amendola welcomes the additional reps he's getting.
John Boyle of the Everett Herald says Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck once pretended he couldn't hear the play call in order to call his own play. Hasselbeck: "What I failed to realize is that the other quarterbacks on the sideline have the headset, so you have to get in unison on that one."
Also from Boyle: Seattle likes what it sees -- so far -- from a reconfigured defensive line.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says the team is bigger, faster and stronger -- and Week 2 opponent Denver noticed the faster part. Josh McDaniels: "We told the team (Wednesday) morning, 'Things happen in a hurry when you play Seattle.' There was no better example of that than last weekend."
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times passes along quotes from offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Bates on the running game: "We're going to keep working at it. We're going to keep running the ball. You've got to be balanced in this league. It's tough to just be one-dimensional. I think our guys are coming together. We're still a new operation, but the communication and all that's working out and we're going to run the ball this weekend."
Also from O'Neil: Red Bryant is looking good at defensive end. Nose tackle Colin Cole: "Offensive tackles are used to going against those 230-, 250-, 270-pound defensive ends. You put somebody that's got 100 to 70 pounds more than they're used to, it's a strength that they're not used to playing against. (Red's) not a guy that's weak by any means of the word. Not only is he big, but he's a strong, physical guy that plays that way. He's definitely an asset."
Greg Johns of seattlepi.com says Bryant's father-in-law, Jacob Green, watched from the Qwest Field stands while Bryant collected the first sack of his NFL career. Johns: "Jacob Green, of course, was a far different defensive end from young Red. At 6-3, 252 pounds, he was a speed rusher who racked up a franchise-record 116 sacks from 1980-91, the third-most in the NFL in that span behind only Lawrence Taylor and Reggie White."
Eric D. Williams of the Tacoma News Tribune offers a podcast featuring Seahawks-related thoughts from draft analyst Rob Rang.
Also from Williams: The Broncos' experienced secondary presents challenges for Hasselbeck.
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' problems scoring points might have been more of a Week 1 phenomenon than a telling indicator. Somers: "There was an average of 36.6 points scored in games last week. It was the second-lowest-scoring week since the league expanded in 2002, according to the New York Times, which received the information from Elias Sports Bureau. The Cardinals and their opponent Sunday, the Atlanta Falcons, are searching this week for ways to put some punch in their offenses. The Falcons lost 15-9 in overtime to the Steelers, and the Cardinals won 17-13, their lowest point total in a victory during Ken Whisenhunt's four-year tenure."
Also from Somers: Undrafted rookie free agent Stephen Williams is getting a big chance to prove himself. Williams on Week 1: "It was a different tempo, a lot faster, more aggressive. I've seen now the real NFL. My first snap, I was in awe."
More from Somers: The Cardinals still do not know whether Beanie Wells will play in Week 2. Receiver Early Doucet is out, however. Doucet needs hernia surgery and will miss 3-6 weeks. Somers: "There will be some changes in the receiver rotation this week. With Doucet out, Stephen Williams will move up to the No. 3 role, and it's possible rookie Andre Roberts could replace Max Komar in the No. 4 slot. Roberts has recovered enough from a shoulder injury to earn consideration for the spot, and it seems as if the Cardinals are going give him a chance."
More yet from Somers: thoughts on Derek Anderson's toughness.
Dan Bickley of the Arizona Republic says Steve Breaston isn't the demonstrative type. Bickley: "Breaston's professionalism will help him get the contract he desires, and he deserves to be next on the Cardinals' long-term priority list. In his first game after inheriting Anquan Boldin's position, Breaston played exactly the type of game that would have made his predecessor proud. This week in Atlanta, he'll be ready to return punts if necessary, no questions asked."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Darnell Dockett is eager to play in Atlanta, near where he grew up. His grandmother plans to attend the game. Dockett: "I get to play in front of my grandmother and all the friends I grew up with and I’m looking for some other people I grew up with, like the neighbor who always called the police on me. I’m trying to get her tickets to the game too so she can watch me." That is vintage Dockett.
Also from Urban: The Cardinals' defense wore down while playing 81 snaps in Week 1. Safety Kerry Rhodes: "We had some chances to give up. We had people cramping up, people not on the field having to rotate some others in. But it shows our depth and that we play for each other."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says the 49ers face questions in the return game following Ted Ginn Jr.'s injury.
Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers a few notes from 49ers practice. Cornerback Will James did not practice.
Also from Branch: Alex Smith is wearing a wristband with plays written on it, an indication as to how the 49ers plan to address their play-calling issues. Smith: "Like I said, I think it's something that we've gotten away with at times in the past, especially last year, you know, just battling it and hurried at the line of scrimmage and we've gotten away with it at times. But I think over the long run, it hurts you. You have less operation time at the line of scrimmage, you're burning timeouts. You're taking unnecessary penalties in key situations. All those things add up."
More from Branch: Smith dismisses details of the 49ers' play-calling issues, as reported by Yahoo Sports. Smith: "I'm not going to lie. I found most of the article pretty ridiculous. Stuff that I had absolutely no idea about. Stuff that was news to me -- that players were going to coach Singletary this offseason and had these issues? That's something I certainly had no idea about and I meet with Singletary pretty often. So, no idea. I was completely unaware of. You can ask the rest of my team, but as far as I'm concerned completely coming from nowhere. False."
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat describes an unusual scene at 49ers headquarters, with Singletary lying on the ground nearby while offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye fielded questions.
Gary Peterson of Bay Area News Group says the 49ers can alleviate their problems by playing well.
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers will retire Jerry Rice's jersey number Monday night. Also: "Other than backup quarterback David Carr, the only 49ers player on the active roster to sit out Sunday's game was running back Brian Westbrook. Offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye said he had planned on using Westbrook as Frank Gore's backup, but when the 49ers fell behind 21-6, the score dictated a shift toward the passing game. Raye said Gore's knowledge of the system and pass-blocking skills kept him on the field."
Also from Brown: more on Singletary's allegations of a "rat" problem.
David White of the San Francisco Chronicle offers the lead of the day: "Mike Singletary got rid of the elephant in the room two weeks ago, only to find the 49ers have a rat problem, too. The former was in regard to Vernon Davis versus Michael Crabtree in an argument during practice. The latter has to do with what Singletary called a "rat" who anonymously criticized offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye in a Yahoo Sports article Tuesday."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Rams general manager Billy Devaney continues to pursue options at wide receiver, including Owens. Thomas: "Although Devaney repeatedly has expressed confidence in the Rams' young and unproven wide receiver corps, the team is considering other options, including the possibility of bringing in former University of Missouri standout Danario Alexander for a visit and a physical."
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic notes in a Cardinals preview that Arizona coaches thought Anquan Boldin had "lost a step" before being traded to Baltimore. He also says coaches think Brandon Keith will become an "excellent" player at right tackle. Somers: "Boldin is gone, but (Steve) Breaston is more than capable. In fact, the Cardinals are more explosive with Breaston than Boldin. Coaches believed Boldin had lost a step. Breaston runs great routes and he breaks tackles."
Also from Somers: Cardinals general manager Rod Graves is "optimistic" about the team's unsigned draft choices having contracts when training camp opens.
More from Somers: How should the Cardinals value fourth-round choice O'Brien Schofield. My answer: as a fourth-round draft choice, independent of pre-existing injuries.
More still from Somers: Five questions on the Cardinals this season. Matt Leinart tops the list.
One more from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt says he thinks Early Doucet and Greg Toler could benefit lots from the team's offseason program.
Tom Friend of ESPN.com says former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck signed with the Giants after also visiting with the Cardinals. Friend: "The Cardinals were Bulluck fans, too, and convinced the linebacker to fly to Phoenix for a workout on July 21. Bulluck hit it off with head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who also dangled his starting middle linebacker job. The Cardinals had earlier lost inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency and had a definite need. But Bulluck slept on it, mulled over the decision for a day and a half and chose the Giants." The Cardinals had nothing to lose from bringing in Bulluck for a visit, even if Bulluck was predisposed to choose the Giants.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says he thinks the Cardinals will extend Darnell Dockett's contract, and Dockett sounds as though he's optimistic. How could Arizona let him get away? Unlike former teammates Antrel Rolle and Karlos Dansby, Dockett existing contract hasn't ballooned beyond his realistic value.
Also from Urban: an in-depth look at Cardinals safety Adrian Wilson. How in-depth? Nearly 2,500 words in-depth. Urban: "His lifetime with the Cardinals and decision to forgo free agency not once but twice was rooted in his Carolina days. Wilson wants to see his name in the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor, and he wants to wear no other uniform than the one he already does. Professionally, personally, he wants to be a man the next 17-year-old in High Point can emulate. Wilson burns to leave a legacy that will endure."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says 49ers running back Frank Gore should be more discerning the next time he holds a party at his home. Maiocco: "Gore hosted a birthday pool party in May at his Miami house that reportedly caught the attention of the NCAA because of the invite list. Gore told SportsBusiness Journal he could not confirm whether some top college football players attended the party because he could not keep track of everyone who walked through his door that night."
49ers scout Todd Brunner says he likes to visit smaller schools early in the season, revisiting select ones later in the year if a follow-up seems necessary. He visits the major schools twice every year no matter what.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the 49ers "could stumble and bumble and still win that weak division." Kawakami: "Last year at this time, quarterback Alex Smith was a bit of an afterthought -- oh, he's still around? -- behind incumbent starter Shaun Hill. This year, for the first time since 2007, Smith goes into camp as the unquestioned No. 1 QB, and for the first time ever, he goes into a second consecutive season with the same offensive system."
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says the linebackers are the 49ers' strength and the main reason opponents have a hard time running the ball. Lynch: "Every year it seems, the 49ers domination defensively creeps up on increasingly better opponents. Last year, they dominated against the playoff-bound Cardinals and the 7-9 Bears. They allowed Peyton Manning only 18 points at Oil Can Boyd Stadium, but then struggled against other good offensive teams- Green Bay (30 points), Houston (24), Tennessee (34), Atlanta (45), Philadelphia (27), Minnesota (27)."
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com quotes coach Pete Carroll this way on Lofa Tatupu: "Lofa is as good and as effective as a player as anyone we ever coached at SC in those nine years -- the most savvy. Lofa helps players around him play well. He can give them all the calls and adjustments that make them play at their best. … I see him being one of our leaders. That familiarity has already given us a great start in how we’ve been received by the team."
Also from Farnsworth: a mailbag entry in which he says defensive tackle Brandon Mebane's versatility is a strength. Farnsworth: "While he lacks elite explosiveness as a pass rusher from the three-technique spot, and is not as stout as you’d like at nose tackle, Mebane fills each role well enough to really help the defense in the rotation used at tackle. After producing 5.5 sacks in 2008, Mebane was moved to the three-technique spot on a fulltime basis last season. But his sack total dipped to 1.5. So, obviously, Carroll wants to see more from Mebane as a pass-rusher."
More from Farnsworth: Seahawks all-time sack leader Jacob Green remembers former teammate Louis Bullard, who died of cancer in April.
Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Leroy Hill's domestic-abuse trial is scheduled to begin Thursday.
John Morgan of Field Gulls offers highlights and lowlights from Jordan Babineaux's 2009 season as the Seahawks' starting free safety. Morgan: "Jordan Babineaux is an acceptable free safety but only if he is the worst player in your starting secondary." Earl Thomas is the new free safety, of course, and veteran strong safety Lawyer Milloy said he returned because his former coach in New England, Carroll, said playing time awaited him.
Rams: Orlando Pace, LT
Claim to fame: Seven Pro Bowl appearances and three first-team All-Pro selections affirm Pace's standing as one of the elite offensive linemen of his era. Pace started two Super Bowls for the St. Louis Rams, winning one, and he was one of the best players for the Greatest Show on Turf.
"The thing Orlando does so well is that he can get caught off balance on the pass rush and recover and finish the block, which is very difficult to do," then-Rams coach Mike Martz told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2002, when Pace was in his prime.
The Rams' offense put pressure on its tackles to hold up in protection. Receivers ran deeper routes, forcing quarterbacks to hold the ball longer. The Rams were willing to risk sacks for the big play. They gave up more than most teams by design, not because Pace had trouble protecting.
"Orlando is the cornerstone of everything we're trying to do on offense," teammate Isaac Bruce told the Post-Dispatch in 2004.
Case against enshrinement: Pace's conditioning wasn't always the best and he battled injuries throughout his career, at the expense of consistency.
Pace managed to play through the injuries for most of his first nine seasons, but he missed 23 of 32 games over the 2006 and 2007 seasons. Pace was never the same thereafter and he was below average last season for the Chicago Bears.
Parting shot: The final five or six seasons of Pace's career shouldn't overshadow what he accomplished in earning those seven trips to the Pro Bowl. Pace deserves strong consideration for the Hall of Fame even though he'll likely rank a couple notches below Jones and Ogden.
Cardinals: Kurt Warner, QB
Claim to fame: Warner authored a legacy unique to the NFL in going from virtual anonymity to superstar status when the Rams lost Trent Green to injury before the 1999 season. He was a four-time Pro Bowl choice and two-time MVP. He was also Super Bowl MVP. Warner helped turn two floundering franchises into Super Bowl teams quickly.
Case for enshrinement: None of the 14 quarterbacks enshrined in the Hall of Fame since 1985 can match Warner in completion percentage (65.5) or yards per game (260.8). Of the 14, only Steve Young had a higher passer rating and more yards per attempt. Only Dan Marino had more 300-yard games.
Warner reached 10,000 yards passing in fewer games than anyone in NFL history. Only Marino reached 20,000 and 30,000 yards as fast (they tied by reaching 30,000 yards in 114 games). Warner and Peyton Manning are the only players with a perfect passer rating in three games.
Warner was also about winning. He has a 9-4 starting record in the playoffs and has posted the three highest passing yardage totals in Super Bowl history. Only Bart Starr has a higher career postseason passer rating. Warner averaged 66.5 percent completions, 304 yards and 8.55 yards per attempt in the playoffs. Warner has 31 postseason touchdown passes in only 13 games (the three players ahead of him own between 18 and 24 playoff appearances).
Case against enshrinement: Warner started more than 11 games in a season only four times. He started between nine and 11 games four times and didn't accomplish much for a five-season period beginning in 2002.
Any argument against enshrinement for Warner will focus on the disjointed nature of his career and the fact that he produced sporadically as a result. The consistency simply wasn't as good with Warner as it was with the typical Hall of Fame quarterback.
Parting shot: Warner's candidacy improved significantly when he led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season. I thought it was also important for his Hall credentials to follow up with another strong effort in 2009. Warner did that, leading the Cardinals to another division title. Tossing five touchdown passes with only four incompletions during a wild-card victory over the Green Bay Packers might have pushed him over the top.
Claim to fame: Craig was among the more versatile running backs in league history, earning Pro Bowl honors at running back and fullback. He was a three-time Super Bowl champion and four-time Pro Bowl choice.
Case for enshrinement: Craig was the first player in NFL history to top 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. He led the NFL in receptions with 92 in 1985 and set the 49ers' season rushing record with 1,502 yards three years later.
It's tough to measure players across eras, but Craig ranked 13th on the all-time rushing list when he retired even though he did so much more than simply run the ball. His three touchdowns against the Miami Dolphins helped the 49ers win the Super Bowl after the 1984 season.
Craig was one of three players in NFL history with 8,000 yards rushing, 4,900 yards receiving, 70 total touchdowns and four Pro Bowls. Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk are the others.
Case against enshrinement: Craig's versatility meant he usually wasn't exceptional in any one category. He generally wasn't a threat to rank among the league rushing leaders. While he did play fullback, he wasn't a great one in the traditional sense.
Craig was a four-time Pro Bowl choice with 8,189 yards rushing, 4,911 yards receiving, 73 total touchdowns and a 4.1-yard rushing average. Ricky Watters was a five-time Pro Bowl choice with 10,643 yards rushing, 4,248 yards receiving, 91 total touchdowns and a 4.1-yard rushing average.
Parting shot: Craig has good Hall of Fame credentials, not great ones, and he'll have a hard time breaking through given the quality of candidates and limited spaces.
Seahawks: Kenny Easley, SS
Claim to fame: Easley was a game-changing force while earning five Pro Bowl berths in seven seasons. He was the NFL's defensive player of the year in 1984.
Case for enshrinement: All-time Seahawks sack leader Jacob Green called Easley the best athlete his Seattle teams ever had. Tight end Todd Christensen of the division-rival Los Angeles Raiders said Easley, at his best, was even better than Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott. Bill Walsh said Easley would be a Hall of Famer if Easley had played longer and, in his words, "maybe he still is -- he was that good." Lott said he knows the 49ers would have drafted Easley over himself if Seattle hadn't taken Easley first, and he blamed the Seahawks' failure to appear in a Super Bowl for keeping Easley out of Canton.
"Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what corners could do -- he could do what Mike Haynes could do," Lott said several years ago. "He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete. In that day, what made him so special -- him, Lawrence Taylor, those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side because they were not just guys that were big hitters. Now, all of sudden, you were seeing guys who were big hitters but also as athletic as anyone on offense."
Easley's outstanding ball skills helped him pick off 17 passes over a two-year period. He was indeed part of a trend toward greater athleticism on defense.
Case against enshrinement: Even if Easley were, at his best, better than Lott, there was no comparison between each man's careers. Easley, forced into early retirement after suffering from kidney failure attributed to excessive use of ibuprofen, simply didn't play long enough to solidify his Hall of Fame credentials. That wasn't his fault, but it was reality and it's tough to judge candidates on what might have been.
Parting shot: Easley becomes eligible for consideration by the Hall of Fame's Senior Selection Committee in 2012. His case deserves careful consideration and I think his chances for enshrinement will improve once the Senior Committee takes a harder look at his career. Easley was better than a lot of people realize. The respect he commands from all-time greats will help his cause.
This was the best team in franchise history by the critical measures. It had a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback, the best offensive line in the NFL, the league MVP at running back and a defense that played its best where it mattered -- in the red zone. Rookie middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu brought direction to a defense lacking leadership.
Coach Mike Holmgren always said he needed his best players to be at their best for a team to approach its potential. This team had that, but clutch contributions from role players sent the 2005 squad on its way.
Receiver Joe Jurevicius added toughness at receiver while catching 10 touchdown passes, offsetting injuries to Darrell Jackson and Bobby Engram.
On defense, backup cornerback Jordan Babineaux made a season-altering play by picking off Drew Bledsoe with 14 seconds remaining during a 13-10 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 7. Seattle had lost two of its first four games that season. Beating the Cowboys heading into the bye was important, but the matter in which Seattle won the game proved transforming.
"My hope is that every time you can win a game like this where it looked a little grim for a while but they you pull it out, it really helps you down the road," Holmgren said afterward. "It really helps your confidence. Organizations need to win games like this at some point."
The Seahawks had tied the score with 46 seconds remaining on Hasselbeck's 1-yard touchdown pass to backup tight end Ryan Hannam (after another backup, receiver Jerheme Urban, made a 22-yard reception at the 2-minute warning). Babineaux returned Bledsoe's pass 25 yards, getting out of bounds in time for Josh Brown to kick the winning field goal as time expired.
Most impressive win: The 2005 team was at its dominant best during a 34-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game.
Advanced chemistry: Teams release injured backups regularly without repercussions, but veteran players protested when management released Urban instead of placing him on injured reserve following a foot injury in November. Urban had made an impression on teammates while catching seven passes for 151 yards. Management gave in to Seattle's veteran leadership, rescinding Urban's release and placing him on IR. The unusual move reflected the strength of the Seattle locker room during a special season.
1984: This was the only team in franchise history to rank among the NFL's top five in points scored and points allowed. Kenny Easley was the NFL's defensive player of the year. Steve Largent and Daryl Turner combined for 22 touchdown receptions. Defensive ends Jeff Bryant and Jacob Green combined for 27.5 sacks.
1983: Other Seattle teams had better regular-season records, but the 1983 team recorded two playoff wins, including an upset shocker in Miami. The 2005 Seahawks were the only other Seattle team with more than one victory in the same postseason.
2007: Losing Hutchinson during the previous offseason hurt, but Hasselbeck set a career high with 28 touchdown passes.
Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News checks in with Hall of Famer Rod Woodson for thoughts on Patrick Willis. Woodson: "Ray (Lewis) was a great leader, but it took him some time to grow into it. Willis knows that his teammates are his friends. But he has to understand that sometimes, the truth doesn't always feel good. Sometimes you have to hold guys accountable. Willis is to the stage now where knowing the defense is going to help him. He's going to know when the nose tackle is out of position. He's going to know when the edge is out of position. And it's going to be up to him to say so." Getting a lucrative new contract should also help Willis emerge as more of a leader.
Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat checks in with 49ers pass-rusher Ahmad Brooks, who hopes to go from situational contributor to breakout player. Brooks: "Yeah, there's always a personal goal. I want to be the sack leader. That's just me. I tell myself I'm gonna get 20. I might not, you know what I mean? But I might end up with like 17 or something, but I always shoot my goals high."
Also from Barber: Taylor Mays stands up for Pete Carroll and the USC program. Mays: "I just feel it's unfortunate that it's being taken out on the university, on kids that really did nothing wrong, or coaches that did nothing wrong. But that's just the reality of the situation. I feel like it would happen to anybody or any university. But it's tough being the University of Southern California. Maybe they came down harder on them because of who we are as a school."
Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says Ricky Jean-Francois is benefiting from Aubrayo Franklin's decision to stay away from the 49ers this offseason. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky: "With Aubrayo not being here right now, he's benefiting from all of those reps Aubrayo would have had. Trust me, he’s seen enough of them. He's really grown with the calls, grown with the technique."
Also from Maiocco: The 49ers' young safeties enjoyed a strong day of practice. Rod Woodson, a visitor at practice, had this to say about Taylor Mays: "I think it's going to take a couple years. It's still a process. I think what people have to do with all players, including Taylor (Mays), is slow down and let the guy be taught. Until then, let the guy be a rookie. I got eaten up as a rookie. That's just part of being a player."
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee says David Carr seemed to make a positive impression in practice Thursday. Barrows: "At this point in his career, Carr said, he knows all the routes and can make all of the throws. It's the verbiage of the Jimmy Raye system that Carr is trying to learn right now. The 49ers will have a minicamp, their only mandatory session of the spring, late next week. When it ends, the 49ers will have more than a month off before they report for training camp. Carr said he typically has thrown the ball during that month break. This time, the two-a-day sessions will involve calling a play in the huddle, barking out directions at the line of scrimmage and then running the play."
Gary Peterson of the Contra Costa Times offers thoughts on the 49ers' stadium measure.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider says Glen Coffee gained about 15 pounds of muscle this offseason because he was determined to bounce back from a rookie season that disappointed him.
Clare Farnsworth of seahawks.com says retired Seahawks great Jacob Green has plenty of advice for his son-in-law now that Red Bryant is playing defensive end. Bryant: "Mr. Green is excited. In fact, he called me last night just to see how my practice is going. With me playing D-end now, he’s got so many suggestions – from how to use my hands, to getting off the ball, to losing weight. He’s really proud, and I’m proud that I’m making him proud. He’s just excited to see finally see me get an opportunity, and I’m excited and grateful."
Also from Farnsworth: a visit with Seahawks offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Bates: "The football IQ on the team is incredible. They really look forward to coming to meetings and then taking it out here. There aren’t many mental mistakes. But we’ve got to keep growing and working on the fundamentals of the game."
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com lists Bates among five coordinators to watch this season. NFC West alumni Mike Martz and Mike Nolan also made the list. Kirwan, a longtime Carroll friend: "The Seahawks were minus-8 in turnovers last year, but I would be very surprised if Carroll team didn't flip that number to a plus-8. The big 'if' is the health of quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, although the team does like what they have in backup Charlie Whitehurst."
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com says Adrian Wilson hopes to play five more seasons in the NFL. Wilson: "I plan on playing another five years and then hanging it up. If it was all said and done today, though, I’d be happy with my career. I’d be content with it."
Also from Urban: "Nothing was necessarily solidified during the Cards’ minicamp and OTA work. (Ken) Whisenhunt has talked about being happier with his secondary depth than when practices started. Whisenhunt also said he has been happy with the work new quarterback Matt Leinart has done in place of the retired Kurt Warner. Most determinations for the depth chart and some roster spots won’t come until training camp, however."
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 ranks Leinart third among starting quarterbacks in the NFC West. Alex Smith is second, with Matt Hasselbeck first. Andrew602: "Cardinal fans may hate me for this but Smith has shown more in the present then Leinart has. Smith is riding in a similar boat then Hasselbeck, in that he also has this year to prove that he can be the quarterback the 49ers hoped he would have been in 2005. Smith possesses the quickness and arm-strength to lead the Niners offense, and with playmakers like Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree, he's finally been gifted with a talented supporting cast. It's a matter of if he can get his head on straight and handle the pressure of leading the 49ers back to the playoffs."
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' Mardy Gilyard is playing catchup after rules prevented him from joining practices until this week. Thomas: "Gilyard spent his time in exile in Cincinnati catching passes from former Bearcats quarterback Tony Pike, a sixth-round draft pick by Carolina, as well as current Bearcats QB Zach Collaros. And when a human arm wasn't available, he caught balls from a JUGs machine, sometimes having them fired over a chair while on his rump -- the better to work on his concentration. The Rams sent him study materials to try to stay current with what was taking place 300-plus miles away in St. Louis."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' signing of Chris Hovan was their latest move designed to add seasoning to a team that ranked among the NFL's youngest in 2009. Also: "Tackle Jason Smith, who left practice early Tuesday with a toe injury, was back at the morning workout Thursday. But he felt irritation in the toe afterward and was sent for an MRI exam. The results were not immediately available."
Jim Rodenbush of the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is getting more comfortable. Bradford on progress since his first Rams practice: "It really is night and day. The more I’m out there, the more reps I get, the more comfortable I feel. From day one to now, it’s night and day, how much more comfortable I feel just calling the plays in the huddle, getting to the line of scrimmage, making reads."
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says Jay Cutler would have been "all wrong" for the 49ers. Cohn: "He is not a winner, has a losing career record: 17-20. Did you know that? You don't build a winner around a loser. He has a big mouth and he sulks. He has a reputation for being undisciplined and for coming unglued precisely when a quarterback is supposed to stay glued. Say what you will about [Shaun] Hill's limitations, he is supremely poised -- poise is his main virtue. The Broncos gave up on Cutler precisely because he's immature bordering on goofy and unstable."
David Fucillo of Niners Nation wonders if Dashon Goldson will stay healthy long enough to realize his potential as the 49ers' free safety.
Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with the Cardinals' cheerleading tryouts because, hey, someone has to do it. This handy photo gallery is probably setting an NFC West offseason record for page views.
Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 looks at some of the greatest fullbacks in Cardinals history. Ernie Nevers, Ollie Matson, Jim Otis and Larry Centers are part of the conversation.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams made a smart move in signing Kyle Boller as a backup quarterback. Looking ahead to the draft, Miklasz sees evidence the Rams will select an offensive tackle with the No. 2 overall choice. At the same time, can they really go into the season with Keenan Burton as a starting receiver?
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Boller's deal with the Rams, initially reported as a two-year contract, is really for one season.
Turf Show Times' Tackle Box examines the Rams' running backs while looking at available free agents and potential late-round draft prospects. The conclusion? "So, at this point, I really want the Rams to take a strong and long look at Warrick Dunn. I think with him in the fold, the Rams' offense becomes absolutely powerful. Plus, adding him takes away from our lack of experience at the WR position since you'd have the possibility of Steven Jackson, Warrick Dunn, and Randy McMichael running routes which would definitely keep defenses honest and should free up Donnie Avery deep."
Dan Arkush of Pro Football Weekly says Seahawks defensive line coach Dan Quinn is "very excited" about the team's versatility at defensive tackle. Arkush echoes the general feeling that Seattle will not seriously consider a defensive tackle with the fourth overall choice in the draft. The Seahawks have not drafted a defensive tackle among the top 20 overall choices since selecting Sam Adams eighth in 1994. The team has drafted five defensive linemen in the top 10: Steve Niehaus (1976), Jacob Green (1980), Jeff Bryant (1982), Cortez Kennedy (1990) and Adams. All but Niehaus played in at least 167 regular-season NFL games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
|Manny Rubio/NFL/Getty Images|
|Hall of Famer WR receiver Steve Largent was voted the Seattle Seahawks' greatest player in franchise history.|
Readers' choice: Steve Largent, WR
Largent remains the only Pro Football Hall of Fame member known primarily as a Seahawks player. He was an easy and rightful choice for ESPN.com voters as the greatest player in franchise history. Largent retired after the 1989 season as the NFL's all-time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and receiving touchdowns (100).
Packers General Manager Ted Thompson described Largent this way when contacted for a story about all-time great receivers:
"He was as crafty as anybody I could recall. He wasn't a big guy, but he knew exactly how to lean on people and his hands were unbelievable. I would put his hands up against those of anyone on this list."
Dave Krieg finished second in balloting, followed by Shaun Alexander, Walter Jones, Matt Hasselbeck, Cortez Kennedy, Curt Warner, Kenny Easley, Jacob Green and the late Dave Brown. I would rank Largent first, Jones second, Kennedy third and Easley fourth. Each was the best in the league at his position for a stretch. And if you remain unconvinced on Easley, listen to what Ronnie Lott told me a few years ago:
Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what Mike Haynes could do. He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete. Kenny, Lawrence Taylor and those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side because they were not just big hitters. Now, all of sudden, you were seeing guys who were big hitters, but also as athletic as anyone of offense.Kennedy was the NFL's defensive player of the year and unblockable for a three- or four-year stretch. Jones will probably go down as one of the five or 10 greatest tackles in NFL history.