NFC West: Jerard Rabb
The 49ers' practice squad began to take shape when the team signed six players released Saturday.
San Francisco carried only five defensive linemen and five receivers on its 53-man roster. Those are low figures.
The defensive-line number reflects Justin Smith's status as an outside linebacker. Still, the 49ers signed two defensive linemen to their practice squad. A third released defensive lineman, LaJuan Ramsey, does not have practice-squad eligibility.
The chart shows every 49ers player with practice-squad eligibility.
The 49ers will presumably add to their numbers at receiver. Cam Colvin appeared to be a candidate for the practice squad, but the 49ers did not sign him immediately.
The team described veteran receiver Ashley Lelie, released Saturday, as a potential injury risk. Carrying him on the opening-day roster would have forced the 49ers to guarantee his salary. It's unclear if San Francisco might re-sign him heading into Week 2. The 49ers might not want him now, but can they find anyone better?
Losing Brian de la Puente probably hurt a little, but the 49ers had to keep second-round choice Chilo Rachal and fourth-rounder Cody Wallace. De la Puente started an exhibition game at guard for the 49ers this summer, but he was undrafted, so he goes.
Update: The 49ers added Joe Toledo to their practice squad Monday, Sept. 1, Chrissy Mauck of 49ers.com notes.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The chart shows each of the 49ers' players with practice-squad eligibility, according to the team.
Practice-squad rules can be confusing, and exceptions sometimes apply to relatively experienced players.
I've categorized each player based on his perceived likelihood of earning a spot on the 53-man roster. Those are rough characterizations. Teams still have not made decisions. It's conceivable that a player listed as a "keeper" could face his release.
As noted: Rosters spots are serious business for NFL players lacking job security. For some, the next 30 hours or so will determine whether they'll earn $17,352.94 per week or whatever the real world pays.
The minimum NFL salary is $295,000. Players get paid in 17 installments, one for every week they spend as a paid member of the organization.
NFL teams must trim rosters from 75 players to 53 players by Saturday afternoon. Teams can establish eight-man practice squads beginning Sunday. Practice-squad players earn a minimum of $5,200 per week during the regular season and playoffs.
Once a player signs with a practice squad, he can practice with the team. He becomes eligible to play in games only if a team signs him to its 53-man roster. Practice-squad players are free to sign with any team's active roster at any time during the season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic takes a stab at the Cardinals' 53-man roster. He favors Sean Morey over Lance Long for the sixth receiving spot. He saves a spot for Pat Ross because the team is low on depth at center. He can't find a spot for Joe Tafoya. He makes room for Monty Beisel and Ali Highsmith.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says safety Eric Bassey might have earned a roster spot after forcing a fumble in the Rams' final exhibition game. I figured Bassey would make it anyway given depth issues in the secondary. Center Nick Leckey was the only projected opening-day starter to play for the Rams in this game.
Also from Thomas: Running back Steven Jackson can void the final two years of his new six-year deal by averaging 1,200 yards rushing and 400 yards receiving over the first four seasons.
And this from Thomas: The Rams' radio headsets did not work against the Chiefs. Coach Scott Linehan: "We are running plays like they do in high school."
Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams' special teams struggled against the Chiefs. That can happen with so many backups playing. Kicker Josh Brown missed a 40-yard field-goal try. That would have been no big deal in the past, but money changes everything. Coats: "In a downpour, Brown pushed the ball wide right, a rare miss for the highest-paid kicker in NFL history."
Also from Coats: Marques Hagans caught four passes for 47 yards in a last-ditch effort to secure a roster spot at receiver.
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer checks in with the Seahawks' bubble players. The situation at receiver continues to intrigue. Farnsworth expects Bobby Engram and Deion Branch to miss the regular-season opener.
Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune expects Justin Forsett to play extensively with the Seattle starters tonight. The rookie running back has been working with the first unit in practice this week. Forsett appears headed to the practice squad if the Seahawks cut him.
Jose Romero of the Seattle Times describes Seahawks receiver Ben Obomanu as confident despite weak preseason stats. Obomanu, who is on the bubble for a job at receiver, put it this way: "Catching passes in a preseason game doesn't always tell the story of whether you're doing a good job." Obomanu caught eight passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the 2007 exhibition season. Each of those figures led the team. He earned a roster spot but was not active for the regular-season opener.
Randy Covitz of the Kansas City Star covered Trent Green's return to Arrowhead Stadium, but there wasn't much to see. The Rams gave Green three snaps, then replaced him with Brock Berlin.
Dan Brown of 49ers Hot Read takes a closer look at the team's receivers. How bad were they last season? Well, three NFL players finished with more receiving yards than the 49ers as a team in 2007. Brown lists the current receivers in this order: Isaac Bruce, Bryant Johnson, Arnaz Battle, Josh Morgan, Ashley Lelie, Jason Hill, Dominique Zeigler, Cam Colvin, Jerard Rabb and Robert Ortiz. I might put them in this order: Bruce, Battle, Johnson, Morgan, Hill and Lelie. And I do think the 49ers want to keep six, a good number for the Mike Martz offense.
Kevin Lynch of Niner Insider projects five receivers hanging around on the 49ers' cutdown to 53 players. At other positions, he expects Moran Norris and Marcus Hudson to miss the cut.
Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee outlines positions of interest heading into the 49ers' final exhibition game: receiver, fullback, outside linebacker and defensive back. He thinks Roderick Green and Tully Banta-Cain will stick around.
Also from Barrows: an in-depth look at the 49ers' defensive linemen. He sticks up for rookie first-round choice Kentwan Balmer. I see his point. Balmer plays a low-profile position (defensive end in a 3-4 scheme). He's not going to gain much notice even if he's playing well. Ask Bryant Young. He became invisible when the 49ers went from 4-3 to 3-4, but that didn't mean he was playing poorly. The position simply specializes in grunt work.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat says this is a brutal time of the year for players on the bubble. But as J.T. O'Sullivan has proved, persistence can pay off. NFL teams have waived O'Sullivan five times, Maiocco notes.
Tom FitzGerald of the San Francisco Chronicle says the 49ers' starting offense might play only a series in the exhibition finale. FitzGerald's bubble players include: Norris, Thomas Clayton, Ashley Lelie, Roderick Green, Larry Grant, Marcus Hudson, Zeigler and Brian de la Puente.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic doesn't expect first-round choice Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to sign in time for rookies to report today. Cardinals GM Rod Graves has apparently had a hard time connecting with Rodgers-Cromartie's agent, who has multiple first-round clients. But Graves thinks a deal can be completed quickly. While players are expected to check in for camp between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. this afternoon, the Cardinals do not practice until Friday morning. That gives them time to work out an agreement.
Matt Maiocco of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat says the 49ers face more questions than ever heading into camp. He addresses 10 issues/subjects: the QB situation, Mike Nolan's job status, Mike Martz, Justin Smith, Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis, Frank Gore, leadership minus Bryant Young, o-line continuity and the NFC West. Maiocco advises fans to brace for speculation that retiring Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren will wind up with the 49ers. I know this about Holmgren: Independent of what happens in San Francisco, he still has the GM itch. He perked up when the Dolphins gave Bill Parcells millions to oversee the rebuilding process in Miami.
Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch explains why the Rams are bucking the trend of holding training camp at team headquarters. Coach Scott Linehan wants to change things up after a 3-13 season. Linehan also wants to train in cooler weather, figuring the team can get more done near Milwaukee. He'll get no argument here. Last summer, the Rams' camp was the least comfortable camp I attended while checking in with the Bears, Colts and Titans. Linehan also advocates the team-building aspects of training off-site. The Rams need all the team-building they can get after a season in which frustrations boiled over.
Kevin Lynch of sfgate's Niners Insider wonders what Mike Nolan meant when he mentioned a camp battle between Arnaz Battle and Ashlie Lelie. The 49ers have entered each of the last five seasons with an average of six receivers on their roster, most in the NFC West during that time. They have 10 right now. Bryant Johnson, Battle, Lelie, Isaac Bruce, Jason Hill and rookie sixth-round pick Josh Morgan have name recognition. Robert Jordan, Dominique Zeigler, Cameron Colvin and Jerard Rabb do not. Jordan, the former Cal star, does have a profile in the Bay Area.
Scott Rabalais of the Baton Rouge Advocate checks in with former Cardinals and Rams defensive back Aeneas Williams, who explains how Gill Byrd demonstrated true mentorship early in his career. "A mentor is not your friend," Williams said. "A friend will love you the way you are. A mentor will love you too much to let you stay the way you are." At Byrd's urging, Williams changed his fundamental approach to the cornerback position. Rabalais notes that Williams becomes eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2009. The eight-time Pro Bowl choice and 1990s all-decade team member picked off 55 passes.
Reuben Frank of the Burlington County Times catches up with Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, who is already bracing for a Nov. 27 battle with Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and the successor to Bryant Johnson. "More teams are using three wides on first down, and we're going to match up," Johnson said. "When we play the Arizona Cardinals, they have three great wide receivers, so we'd probably start out in nickel." Hence the need for three proven corners in Asante Samuel, Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard.
Cam Inman of the Contra Costa Times implores Nolan to name Alex Smith the 49ers' starting quarterback. Inman also urges Nolan and the 49ers to stop using former offensive coordinator Jim Hostler as a scapegoat for what went wrong last season. That sounds like a good idea. Coaches secure in their standing generally do not need to point fingers in public. Plus, it's bad form. Hostler was in a tough spot last season as a first-year coordinator for a team with serious issues, including injuries at quarterback. It's not his fault the 49ers hired him. Was he supposed to decline the opportunity on grounds he needed more seasoning?
Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer says the Seahawks are hopeful that rookies Lawrence Jackson and John Carlson will sign in time for the first practices of camp Friday. The Seahawks have had their share of training-camp contract disputes over the years, and in this case the process hit a snag while an arbitrator settled differences between the NFL and its players. Reporting dates aren't nearly as important as practice dates. Getting Jackson and Carlson signed by Friday is the important thing.