NFC West: John Henry Johnson

Vittorio Tafur and Dwight Chapin of the San Francisco Chronicle pass along remembrances for John Henry Johnson, famed member of the San Francisco 49ers' Million Dollar Backfield of the 1950s. Johnson died Friday. Tafur and Chapin: "In a 1955 exhibition game, Mr. Johnson smashed into Chicago Cardinals star Charley Trippi so hard that Trippi sustained multiple face fractures. That blow -- and other hard hits -- gained Mr. Johnson a reputation in some quarters as a dirty player, and might have delayed his being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Mr. Johnson always maintained that he had only a 'do unto others' philosophy, noting his own lasting football injuries."

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com thinks 49ers quarterback Alex Smith could benefit from reaching out to former quarterback Steve Young during the lockout. Maiocco: "I'm not sure how much Young could have assisted Smith. After all, the playbook authored by new 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman might look and sound completely different than the one Young used more than a decade ago. But it's a question worth asking." I'd be interested in knowing what dynamics exist between the players. Have they spent much time together? Do they have much of a rapport? I've never heard Young take shots at Smith when providing commentary during his radio show on KNBR.

Steve Corkran of Bay Area News Group puts into perspective Johnson's impact on the San Francisco sports scene. Johnson, who passed away Friday at age 81, was part of the 49ers' Million Dollar Backfield of the 1950s.

Eric Branch of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat profiles 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman, whose status as an overachiever makes him a good fit for Harbaugh. Branch: "Roman’s rugged ethos was born out of his childhood in Ventnor, N.J. The youngest of three brothers, Roman’s parents divorced before he was born and he never had a relationship with his father, who is deceased. His mom, Carol, was a reading specialist who worked baby-sitting jobs after school to support the family."

Also from Branch: Roman and the Rams' Josh McDaniels both hail from John Carroll University.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee expects most of the 49ers' rookie draft choices to participate in upcoming player-organized workouts.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times checks in with Seahawks quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who steered clear of making strong comments regarding his standing with the team. Whitehurst: "Well, luckily I'm not going through the free-agent stuff like some guys are going through. I know I'm the only quarterback that's on the roster right now, and I'm sure that will change eventually when we get it figured. I look at it like I'm going to get the chance to be the starter, and I think I can do it. That's what I plan to do. Whenever we figure it out, I'll compete as hard as I can to make that happen."

Christian Caple of seattlepi.com says the strength coach at the University of Washington has been writing offseason workout plans for Seattle players during the lockout. The coach formerly worked under Pete Carroll at USC. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck: "He wrote a workout for the offensive line, for the quarterbacks, for all the different guys. It’s just been real good. We’re creatures of habit that way. We’re used to getting world class coaching in the weight room and we don’t get that right now because we’re not allowed to talk to our coaches, so Ivan has really come through and really saved the day for us that way."

Liz Mathews of 710ESPN Seattle offers highlights from Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson's recent appearance on John Clayton's radio show. Robinson says players should qualify for unrestricted free agency earlier in their careers based on relatively short average career lengths. Robinson: "I don't know if many fans understand the average playing career is 2.2 years. I've beat the odds by going into year six and personally believe that that rule needs to be changed. After four years you should be able to go anywhere you want to and be a free agent. But like I said, I'm in limbo, and if we go back to the 2010 rules, I'll be tendered with the Seahawks. I love playing for the Seahawks. Love being out there. Love playing in front of the 12th Man. Love Pete Carroll and the whole system he has going out there. But at the same time, you want to be compensated for what you do and I think a tendered offer is some dollars less than what I even made last year. So I'm kinda stuck and just waiting to see what comes out of these court proceedings and what come out of this mediation and hopefully we have a new deal." The NFL has said careers last longer on average. The discrepancy could reflect which careers are taken into account, those for all players or just those who earn spots on 53-man rosters.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic says the Cardinals' coaches weren't aware of the NFL Coaches Association's legal filing against the lockout. Somers: "Unlike some teams, such as the Jets, the Cardinals haven't issued any public statements about it. But I'm told Coach Ken Whisenhunt and his assistants knew nothing about the brief prior to its filing. Coaches are sensitive to any perception that they are siding with the players in the dispute. Most assistants that I've talked to just want to stay out of the whole affair. Like most of us, they just want to know when football will be played."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com understands why Football Outsiders ranked Jim Hart over Kurt Warner as the top quarterback in franchise history. Urban: "Interesting that Hart would be above Warner, but their reasoning is a longer resume for Hart, and that’s not unfair. Kurt was great in 2008 and 2009. In 2007, he had good stats, but I would tend to agree with FO, it didn’t always seem to totally translate that season, at least not as well as the next two years. And pre-Whiz, Warner’s years under Denny Green were like everything else under Green -- all over the map (plus, in 2006, Warner played poorly and was benched most of the season)."

Also from Urban: How play designs come to be.

Reid Laymance of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch catches up with former Dolphins coach Don Shula for thoughts on how the lockout is affecting the Rams and other teams. Laymance: "It really puts coaches in a tough spot. On the one hand, they are your players and you want to be with them, but it's the owner who signs your check."

D'Marco Farr of 101ESPN St. Louis expects McDaniels, the Rams' new offensive coordinator, to value players differently than former coordinator Pat Shurmur valued them. Farr: "Most former head coaches-turned-offensive coordinators usually are seeking a temporary opportunity somewhere to regain credibility for another shot at a head coaching job somewhere else. I don't see why McDaniels would be any different. Historically speaking, new coordinators aren't really all that concerned about ruffling the feathers of key players from someone else's offensive strategy, from the season prior to their hiring. So, in the Rams' case, what may have been acceptable for Pat Shurmur may not even come close to what McDaniels will demand of his guys."
Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch likes the championship banners coach Steve Spagnuolo has displayed in honor of the Rams' past, but he also thinks it's time for the team to show significant improvement in the present. Burwell: "I believe that while this isn't necessarily the breakthrough year for the Rams, it has to be the year when we see strong evidence that this is finally an ascending team. They have a new franchise quarterback (Sam Bradford) to groom, two potential young offensive tackles (Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold) to transform into reliable anchors, a superstar running back on the mend (Steven Jackson) and a stable of unproven young wide receivers who will be given every opportunity to confirm the unsubstantiated support they've been given by the coaches and front office."

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams still have interest in Brian Westbrook and the team is "hopeful" it can sign him. Adding Westbrook would help lots on paper. The Rams would have addressed an area that needed addressing. Westbrook could be a good fit in a backup role because he would be less prone to injury. It's just tough to expect much from 30-year-old running backs. Westbrook turns 31 in September.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says the Rams expect Jackson to practice Saturday for the first time since back surgery. Also, the Rams are holding evening practices during this training camp in an effort to beat the heat and allow more fans to attend.

Also from Thomas: a chat transcript in which he says the Rams never made an offer to Terrell Owens.

Phil Barber of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat offers highlights from the 49ers' annual "State of the Franchise" gathering. Coach Mike Singletary called new offensive line coach Mike Solari "one of the finest coaches anywhere in America." Singletary also said the 49ers were as talented as any team.

Also from Barber: Fred Dean, John Henry Johnson, Ronnie Lott, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Montana, Joe Perry, Bob St. Clair, Dave Wilcox and Steve Young are expected to attend Jerry Rice's Hall of Fame induction.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com says the 49ers expect to have their draft choices signed in time for camp.

Also from Maiocco: The 49ers plan to sell seat licenses that never expire and can be transferred once the team's new stadium is finished.

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee offers 49ers-related notes, noting that first-round choice Anthony Davis has been working out at the facility since organized team activities ended in June. Also, the 49ers think their new stadium will empty 50 percent faster than Candlestick Park following games.

Also from Barrows: a look at the 49ers' situation at safety and a reminder that Reggie Smith could be in the mix eventually. Barrows: "Because it takes a while to develop young safeties and because of the uncertainty among the 49ers' starting safeties -- starter Michael Lewis is 30 and his salary is creeping upward -- the 49ers very well may keep all of their young safeties on the 53-man roster this year, although (Curtis) Taylor still has practice-squad eligibility. Look for undrafted rookie Chris Maragos, who teamed with Mays to compose the third-team safety duo this spring, to be another practice-squad candidate."

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says improving the offensive line was the 49ers' top priority this offseason.

David White of the San Francisco Chronicle says there was less bluster from the 49ers at their annual gathering this year.

Scott Allen of Raising Zona checks in with Cardinals receiver Andre Roberts, who has this to say: "I do believe I have a great chance at being the number 3 or 4. I just need to learn my plays and gain the confidence of the quarterback and I believe I’ll be right there in the hunt."

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic expects the Cardinals' Gerald Hayes and O'Brien Schofield to open training camp on the physically unable to perform list.

Also from Somers: The Cardinals released tackle Devin Tyler to make room on the roster for the newly signed Schofield.

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com raises 10 questions heading into the Cardinals' training camp. The fourth question -- where will the pass rush come from? -- is one the Seahawks and Rams also might be asking. Urban: "The Cardinals piled up 42 sacks last season, their highest total in years and they did it by committee. Defensive linemen Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell tied for the team lead with seven. The idea in signing linebacker Joey Porter, who had 9.0 sacks for Miami, is that he can provide more of a dynamic pass rush than what the Cards were getting last season from Bertrand Berry or Chike Okeafor. Campbell, at end in a 3-4 look, should increase his total, and Dockett comes across like a man on a mission (and in search of a new contract). Even if Porter doesn’t revert to his stellar 2008 (17 sacks), he needs to be a difference-maker. The Cards also need help from some unknown factor, whether it is Cody Brown, Will Davis, Mark Washington or Stevie Baggs." It's reasonable to expect more from Porter than the Cardinals got from Berry and Okeafor last season.

Revenge of the Birds' Andrew602 checks in with Cardinals receiver Onrea Jones. Jones on what it takes to earn a roster spot: "Well I know one thing -- it's special teams -- to find the right spot on special teams. Mike Adams was big as a gunner last year on special teams. I kind of look up to him for that. Because he's been in the Super Bowl and he knows what he's doing. And that's one thing I've learned from Sean Morey also. I'm really concentrated on special teams, gunner, trying to get a spot on the kick off team, kick off return, any special teams I can get on, that's my ticket. Obviously you have to make plays as a wide receiver. I'm battling for a number 4 and 5 between me and Andre. Whoever gets that spot, he has to have a big role on special teams. As long as I can produce on special teams, I know I'll be alright."

Pro Football Weekly's NFC West preview singles out Laurent Robinson, Alex Smith, Justin Forsett and Ben Patrick as potential fantasy sleepers in 2010. On Forsett: "Although he is expected to battle Jones for touches in every game, Forsett has the kind of big-play ability (5.4 yards per carry in '09) as a runner, receiver and returner to develop into a surprisingly effective fantasy force. Forsett twice ran for 100 yards when Jones was out with injuries last season and could be increasingly effective both running and catching passes out of the backfield behind what figures to be a more stable offensive line." It's just tough to know how much playing time each Seattle running back will get this season. Leon Washington's status is one key variable.

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